By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — The Rotunda Room inside Beaumont Commons, 16351 Routnda Drive, was filled with worried residents who spoke up and asked questions about threats to healthcare July 2.
A public forum was hosted by U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) along with Beaumont Health System Senior VP of Government Relations Mary Zatina, Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation Executive Director Marianne Udow-Phillips and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation of Southeast Michigan Advocacy Chairwoman Shari Navetta on the panel to address concerns.
Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. was also in attendance and said, “We have the right to be assured we will all have the healthcare we all need to continue living healthy lives.”
Healthcare issues discussed by the panel ranged from those that impact local residents to the issues that impact the country as a whole.
Some of the concerns were changes to the Healthy Michigan Plan in 2018 from 2013, Michigan’s Medicaid work requirements, pre-existing conditions, insurance premium rate increases, Medicare and helping the homeless with healthcare.
Public Act 208 will have work requirements for non-exempt enrollees and Healthy Michigan enrollees with income above 100 percent of federal poverty who have been on the program for 48 months or more will have their monthly premium contributions increase from 2 to 5 percent of their income.
Those same enrollees must engage in a healthy behavior to maintain Healthy Michigan coverage. There also will be no marketplace option and additional termination triggers.
Before answering any questions, Dingell said she has people approach her with their healthcare concerns when she attends doctor’s appointments with her husband former, U.S. Rep. John Dingell, at various hospitals in Michigan.
“No matter what hospital I am at with John, whether it’s Henry Ford, University of Michigan or Beaumont, Dearborn, I have scared people stopping to ask me what is going to happen with healthcare in our county,” she said.
According to a Dingell press release, “affordable healthcare in Michigan is under attack including the Justice Department no longer defending pre-existing condition protections in court, the Republican Tax Law’s repeal of the individual mandate, and Congress’ failure to pass marketplace stabilization legislation.”
Zatina said the Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect, but it does provide access to those people who did not have it prior to the act.
“At Beaumont, we believe that the most important aspect of delivering care is ensuring our patients have full and robust access to care and health insurance,” she said. “The ACA helps us help people. It’s the doorway to better care, better value and healthier lives and it offers protections for pre-existing conditions and protections for children.”
In 2018, the premiums in Michigan increased an average of 26.7 percent in large part because of federal regulatory changes and uncertainty about the future of the ACA as Udow-Phillips explained. The 2018 Michigan health insurance rate changes in the individual market were announced by the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services in fall 2017.
“In particular, there were payments owed to health plans that the administration decided not to pay that significantly contributed to the large premium increases,” she said. “While, premium increases in 2019 look to be much lower, future increases are likely as a result of things like the repeal of the tax penalty for people who don’t have health insurance, which is a problem because it means that people have less incentive to buy health insurance and those insured are more likely to be sicker which makes costs go up actually for everyone.”
Navetta shared a personal story if how her son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 22 months old and the cost of insulin.
“It is imperative that people with Type 1 diabetes have access to affordable, quality and predictable healthcare coverage,” she said. “Keeping themselves healthy and in range every day is stressful enough without the added burden of wondering if they will be able to afford the supplies and insulin they need to live.”
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])