Health care access improves in West Michigan and Detroit, report finds

January 22, 2019

Originally published by MLive

Fewer residents in West Michigan and the Detroit region lack health insurance, according to a new report that takes a comprehensive look health care trends in the region.

Substantial insurance changes were cited Friday, Jan 11 during the 10th annual health care forecast, Health Check 2019, at Grand Valley State University’s Pew Campus in Grand Rapids.

“This report is intended to serve as a tool to assist in shaping the policy and supporting decision making for identification of priority issues and planning health care workforce preparation, services, and delivery systems,’’ according to Jean Nagelkerk, GVSU Vice Provost for Health.

Access to Health Care

“We are really starting to see the effects of the Medicaid expansion in Michigan,’’ said Kevin Callison, an assistant professor at Tulane University, who prepared the report with Grand Valley’s assistant professor of economics Sebastian Linde.

“It is clear that Medicaid expansion is reducing the uninsured rate and improving access to care.’’

The share of the adult population lacking health insurance in West Michigan fell from 12.3 percent in 2011 to 7.3 percent in 2016, according to the report. In the Detroit region, the rate dropped from nearly 17 percent in 2011 to 8.6 percent in 2016.

Health Check specifically analyzes health care trends in Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon, and Allegan counties with comparisons to the Detroit region that comprises Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties and the U.S.

Likely as a result of increased insurance coverage, the share of people reporting that they are unable to access health care due to cost has fallen in both West Michigan and the Detroit region, according to the analysis. Access to a routine source of care has increased.

Callison, who works in the department of Global Health Management and Policy and the School of Public Health at Tulane, said the change in access to health care is one of the most notable takeaways from this year’s report.

Rates of uninsurance throughout much of the U.S. reportedly have fallen since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and reductions have been significantly larger in states that have expanded eligibility for Medicaid.

Michigan’s Medicaid expansion began in April 2014. As of December 2018, there were 680,874 people enrolled in Healthy Michigan. During the 2018 session, the legislature approved a Medicaid work requirement.

Trends in Health Behaviors

The study found that changes related to health behaviors over the past several years has been minimal, based on the latest data from the Michigan Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

People who are obese and/or smokers are at an increased risk for many serious diseases and health conditions.

“The trends have been fairly stable for obesity in both the KOMA (Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon, and Allegan) and Detroit region,’’ said Linde, noting that if your Body Mass Index is 30.0 or higher, it falls within the obese range.

For both regions, Linde said the percentage of the population that’s obese has hovered around 30 or so percent from 2011 to 2016. He said for Michigan as a whole, 32.5 percent of the population is obese.

“The national average is 29.09 percent, highlighting the fact there is still plenty of room for improvement when it comes to dealing with the adverse effects of obesity in this state,’’ he said.

There is a divide between West Michigan and the Detroit region when it comes to smoking.

Smoking rates appear to have fallen from approximately 20 percent of West Michigan’s adult population in 2013 to 16 percent as of 2016, according to the report. While in Detroit, smoking rates have consistently been around 23 percent.

“That figure is about 20.4 percent for Michigan, which is considerably higher than the national rate of 17.1 percent in 2017,’’ said Linde, citing it as another area the state can improve.

Read the full story at MLive