Capital News Service

of the Michigan State University School of Journalism

Health insurance doesn’t guarantee care, study finds

By CHANTAL COOK
Capital News Service

LANISNG – A survey shows that having health insurance doesn’t guarantee health care.

The Cover Michigan Survey by the Center for Health Care Research and Transformation asked 1,022 adults for information on their source of coverage, health status and ability to pay for coverage.

Melissa Riba, research consultant for the center in Ann Arbor, said that having health insurance isn’t a cure to fix health care problems.

“People are not getting regular care from doctors,” Riba said.

The survey showed urban residents reported fewer problems with access to care compared to suburban residents. That result was likely due to the fact that urban communities have more health care services and programs creating a safety net.

Kim Singh, director of the Mid-Michigan District Health Department, said other problems are transportation and income.

Singh said when a new dental clinic was opened to the public who seek care in Montcalm County, the first person who came through the door hitchhiked a ride to the clinic.

“Most communities in Michigan don’t have reliable transportation in rural and suburban areas,” Singh said.

Next, where patients are on the income ladder often decides what health insurance or care they get, she said.

Singh said that some suburban and rural communities are predominately low income.

In Montcalm County, the unemployment rate is high. Businesses such as manufacturing are afraid that worker’s may have to give up their health insurance. Some companies don’t pay workers insurance due to high premiums.

“Income is influencing the assumption of health,” Singh said.

Another problem identified in the survey is that people have a hard time finding a doctor or dentist.

It showed that more than one-third of Medicaid recipients reported difficulty finding health care providers. People with Medicaid or Healthy Kids coverage said they have trouble finding providers to accept their coverage.

Doctors and dentists are reluctant to accept Medicaid coverage because it has a low reimbursement rate that doesn’t cover their overhead costs. By law they don’t have to accept Medicaid patients.

Medicaid numbers are expected to increase from 1,599,400 2008 to a projected 1,754,000 2011.

Judy Putnam, communications director for the Michigan League for Human Services, said a rising number of people with Medicaid and doctors not accepting Medicaid pose problems.

She noted that if people delay getting care, by the time they go to the emergency room, their problem has become more severe. As a result, more time and money will be spent to provide care that could have been avoided.

“It’s been a problem for many years with specialists and it’s becoming a growing problem,” Putnam said.

Health clinics have opened across the state that provide basic care for those who seek it.

In 2007, Montcalm established the Montcalm Health Center, which takes anyone who needs care.

Its clinics provide basic care such as checkups. Their access is limited but they are still helping people.

Singh said enrollment is high.

Lawmakers working on next year’s budget are planning to make between 8 to 11 percent cuts in payments to doctors and other health providers.

Eligibility cuts will be made for 19-to 20-year-olds who are on Medicaid.

Federal law requires a person to be covered by Medicaid only up to 18 years old.

© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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Filed under: Social Policy

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