Researchers from the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation will study if Medicaid expansion made possible by the Affordable Care Act improves the health of low-income Michigan residents.

The study, which will be performed under contract with the Michigan Department for Community Health, will cover many aspects of the Healthy Michigan program, which seeks to improve access to high-quality healthcare and encourage healthy behaviors among low-income Michiganders, while reducing uncompensated care and the number of uninsured residents of the state.

Over the next five years, U-M researchers will examine extensive data about the enrollment patterns, health spending, health-related behaviors, and health outcomes of Healthy Michigan Plan participants. Some of the projects within the evaluation will focus on analyzing state data on healthcare utilization, such as office visits, emergency department care, and hospitalizations.

For this work, IHPI faculty and their teams will analyze encrypted data files that protect the privacy and confidentiality of plan members while allowing research to take place. Other projects will reach out to Healthy Michigan Plan participants and physicians to learn about their experiences.

The Healthy Michigan Plan is fully funded for the first three years by federal dollars under the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion program. The state will begin paying 5 percent of costs in 2017, and 10 percent starting in 2021.

One of the unique features of the plan is that, six months after enrolling, each member begins to pay co-pays for care through a savings account called a MI Health Account. Members with incomes above the federal poverty level will pay co-pays and contributions up to 5 percent of their income into this account, to cover part of the cost of their care. Members can reduce their costs by completing an annual health risk assessment with their primary care provider, and by adopting healthy behaviors.

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