Medicaid Expansion Doubled Access to Primary Care and Increased Attention to Health Risks in Low-Income Michiganders

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Mon, December 16, 2019

When the state of Michigan expanded its Medicaid program to provide health coverage to more low-income residents, its leaders built special features into the plan, different from most states. They wanted to encourage enrollees to understand their individual health risks, and incentivize them to prevent future health problems, or find them early. According to two new studies, that effort has paid off.

The percentage of enrollees in the Healthy Michigan Plan who saw a primary care doctor in a given year doubled, and many of those visits included a discussion of healthy behaviors that could improve their long-term health, the studies show. Half of the enrollees said they completed the Healthy Michigan Plan “health risk assessment” questionnaire and went over it with a physician. A majority of enrollees got preventive care, such as cancer screenings or dental visits.

It appears that the special financial incentives that the state built into the program played only a partial role in completion of the health risk assessment. In fact, many of the enrollees didn’t even know they could get a cost-sharing discount by filling it out and discussing it with their doctor. 

The new findings appear in two papers published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine by several members of the Healthy Michigan Plan evaluation team from the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

For more details, check out M Health Lab.

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