County/national health care plans discussed

FLINT TWP. — Pam Nelson, Genesee County Health Plan community outreach specialist, made a presentation at the June 18 township board meeting about the millage renewal on the November ballot to continue providing health care for low-income people.

“We are making the rounds to make sure people are aware of what is going on,” Nelson said.

GHP is not an insurance plan. It provides basic health care for low-income people ages 19-64 who are too old to be eligible for Medicaid or too young to be eligible for Medicare, she said.

Most are working people with part-time jobs that provide no health insurance. Some are unemployed.

To be eligible, they cannot have any other insurance and must meet income thresholds of about $19,000 a year for a family of one and $36,000 annually for a family of four, Nelson said.

Coverage includes doctor’s visits, lab tests, x-rays and prescriptions.

A 1-mill property tax to support the GHP was first passed by voters in 2006, and if renewed in November, would be extended to 2019.

The program has been especially helpful to sufferers of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart and respiratory disease making it possible for them to continue to be able to work, Nelson said.

Also it has quadrupled the number of women getting mammograms and reduced by 51 percent the number of people visiting hospital emergency rooms as their primary health care provider which saved millions of dollars of uncompensated care costs for residents of Genesee County, Nelson said.

The program is for adults only but indirectly helps children by making sure that those who come in with adults get signed up for appropriate services such as MIChild or Healthy Kids.

The heath plan has helped more than 63,0000 people since it started in 2001, Nelson said. Those helped are about a 50/50 mix of urban and suburban residents, she said.

GHP can also with exams and eyeglasses for people who don’t have vision insurance, offers a pharmaceutical assistance program to help people afford long-term prescriptions and also operates a medical equipment closet loaning up things like crutches and scooters to people in need.

Trustee Frank Kasle asked Nelson how GHP would be affected by adoption of President’s Barack Obama’s National Health Care Plan. It is now under review by the U.S. Supreme Court which expected to rule this week on whether it is constitutional..

Nelson said the national plan would reduce need by about half.

“If it were to pass today exactly as it was presented we know that the number of uninsured people in Genesee County would go from 54,000 down to about 24,0000.”

GHP would fill the gap for the estimated 24,000 people still uninsured and provide some services not covered.

Nelson said, if passed this week, the plan would not go into effect until 2014 but in Michigan would take until about 2019 to reach full effect because the state lags behind other states in signing up for federal Exchange funds for Medicaid.

GHP is located G-3169 Beecher Rd. Suite 204, west of Ballenger, and also does intake at the Genesee County Health Department, 630 South Saginaw in downtown Flint. Appointments are necessary. For more information, call 810-232-7740.

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