Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cover Michigan health care report shows state system in distress

A new report on healthcare coverage in Michigan shows the state losing ground in several critical areas, including the number of children and adults who are uninsured and the percentage of the population covered by private insurance.

The report, called Cover Michigan, was released by the Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation (CHRT), a think-tank created by the University and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to develop and test new ideas for promoting evidence-based care, improving population health, and expanding access to care.

“Cover Michigan shows a state under stress,” says CHRT Director Marianne Udow-Phillips. “More and more Michigan residents — especially our most vulnerable populations — are facing hardships in obtaining and affording health care. Our health care delivery system is destabilizing as more people are underinsured and uninsured.”

CHRT developed Cover Michigan to provide policy makers and the public with a comprehensive source of information on coverage rates, costs to the insured and the strength of the health care safety net in Michigan.

“It is essential for policy makers to understand that health care coverage is critical, but coverage alone isn’t enough,” Udow-Phillips says. “Access to health care is the broader issue, and access is deteriorating for too many of our citizens in all walks of life.”

Because of its strong union history, Michigan’s rate of healthcare coverage historically has been higher than the country as a whole. In 2007 Michigan had the 18th lowest percentage of uninsured residents compared to other states, and the percentage of uninsured children in Michigan was especially low: Michigan ranked ninth in the nation on this important measure.

But even in areas where Michigan does well historically, Cover Michigan reveals that coverage deteriorated in 2007. Approximately 11.6 percent of Michigan’s total population — 1.1 million people — lacked health coverage, up from 10.5 percent in 2006. In 2006 only 4.7 percent of Michigan’s children were uninsured, but in 2007 that percentage increased to 6.2. Average family premiums for those with private health insurance increased 68 percent from 2000-06; average family deductibles increased 25 percent since 2002.

The stress on the healthcare system itself is reflected in the data on hospital uncompensated care and the safety net. The report shows an increase of more than 68 percent in the uncompensated care (charity care and bad debt) provided by hospitals in Michigan from 2004-07.

The report also shows that:
• Fewer Michigan employers are providing coverage. The percentage of establishments offering health coverage in Michigan dropped from 64 percent in 2000 to 53 percent in 2006;
• More than one-in-four Michigan residents (27 percent) had some form of public health coverage (Medicaid, State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and Medicare);
• The uninsured are distributed disproportionately across Michigan’s population. More than 23 percent of the uninsured children and adults under 65 were African American, although they represented only 15 percent of the overall state population; and
• 48 percent of Michigan’s federally designated “medically underserved areas” still lack a federally qualified health center.

“Unless there are major changes in the way we finance and deliver health care in our country, more and more of our citizens will face increasing difficulties in obtaining health coverage, leaving them vulnerable to devastating medical tragedies,” Udow-Phillips says.

“This report can be a critical decision-making tool for the public and our policy makers as they work together to develop the kind of healthcare security necessary for our state — and our country — to grow and thrive.”

For an electronic copy of Cover Michigan go to www.chrt.org or e-mail chrt-info@umich.edu with “Cover Michigan” in the subject line.