Students could see relief with Medicaid

For those whose parents don’t have health insurance, or who are older than 26, Michigan’s controversial Medicaid expansion could be the answer for the uninsured student population after the law takes effect next spring.

For college students making less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level — or less than $15,282 a year for a single adult — the Medicaid expansion could mean access to long-awaited health care coverage.

“Being a student does not affect your eligibility,” said Angela Minicuci, public information officer for the Michigan Department of Community Health, or MDCH.

The exact implementation date of the Medicaid expansion, which Gov. Rick Snyder intends to sign into law after returning from a foreign trade mission in Asia, depends on what lawmakers decide in ensuing months.

It’s also unclear how many students actually would be able to receive Medicaid coverage.

The Census Bureau doesn’t differentiate between the student and non-student population in its data, and Minicuci said she does not have immediate access to income statistics that also account for age.

MSU doesn’t keep any information on the socioeconomic status of its students, making it difficult to see how many would be directly impacted.

MSU had 9,237 Pell Grant recipients between fall 2012 and summer 2013. These are typically rewarded to lower-income degree-seekers. It’s impossible to tell how many of these students could qualify for Medicaid, but it does give a sense of how many need assistance for the cost of college,

which the federal government views as dependent on personal income and the expected family contribution to the student.

Meanwhile, because immediate effect wasn’t granted to the bill, MDCH Director James Haveman said the state will lose out on $7 million a day until the expansion is implemented.

On top of that, Minicuci said the state is losing an additional $64 million it could have saved if the bill were to take effect Jan. 1, 2014.

In addition, uninsured adults would have to pay a $95 penalty for lacking coverage — a fee they wouldn’t have had to pay if immediate effect was granted.

That’s drawn no shortage of criticism from Democrats in the state House and Senate.

“It’s another embarrassment for the governor,” said Rep. Sam Singh, D-East Lansing. “The Tea Party has cost the state of Michigan $600 million.”

Still, most Democrats and many Republicans view the expansion as a positive.

“We didn’t get everything that we wanted, but we did pretty well,” said Rep. Andy Schor, D-Lansing.

Republican leaders such as House Speaker Jase Bolger applauded the passage, despite making it clear they dislike the Affordable Care Act as a whole.

“The men and women of Michigan who get up and go to work every day to provide for their family and lose sleep every night trying to balance their checkbook deserve a state government that makes tough decisions, pushes through disagreements and solves problems,” Bolger said in a statement.

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