LANSING, Mich. (AP) — LANSING, Mich. (AP) — When Thomas Booth’s mom told him he needed health insurance, he knew she was speaking from experience. As a breast cancer patient, his mom has relied on her Medicaid coverage for years of treatment, he said.
“She’s been worried about me. She has stage-four breast cancer, so she understands the process of, if you get hurt or sick, it does cost a lot of money,” Booth said.
That’s why Booth, 24, was one of thousands of Michigan residents who signed up on day one for Michigan’s expanded Medicaid plan, which is intended to provide health insurance for hundreds of thousands more low-income adults.
Enrollment began Tuesday for Healthy Michigan, which extends Medicaid eligibility to adults making up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $16,000 for an individual and $33,000 for a family of four.
By early afternoon 8,592 applications had been received, and 2,997 had been automatically approved, according to the Department of Human Services. The state expects 320,000 residents to sign up in the first 12 months. The number could grow as high as 470,000 over time.
Gov. Rick Snyder fought last year to persuade fellow Republicans in the Legislature to agree to the Medicaid expansion under President Barack Obama’s health care law. Twenty-six states and Washington, D.C. are expanding Medicaid this year, and most began the program in January.
“Today’s launch marks a significant milestone in our ongoing efforts for a healthier Michigan,” Snyder said in a statement. “The Healthy Michigan Plan is about improving the health and wellbeing of our citizens, saving money for taxpayers and job providers and ensuring our state’s continued comeback.”
The federal government will cover all Medicaid costs for the first three years of the program. By 2020, Michigan will pay 10 percent of costs and the federal government will pay 90 percent.
About 1.8 million people in Michigan are currently enrolled in Medicaid, and most of them are children, according to the Department of Community Health.
The new plan includes federally and state mandated benefits such as emergency services, hospitalization, prescription drugs and mental health and substance abuse services. Eligible Michigan residents can apply at HealthyMichiganPlan.org, by phone at (855) 789-5610 or at a DHS office.
Residents an also get help applying at Cherry Street Health Services in Grand Rapids. Applicants should come prepared with their Social Security number and proof of income like a W-2 tax form or a paystub, as well as information on current insurance.
The application process should take about 45 minutes or an hour, Cherry Street Health Services says.
Set copays for services range from $1 to $50. Users may also be required to pay a 2% of their income, depending on how much they make.
Lynne Oberg, 52, said the Healthy Michigan application took her less than 30 minutes to complete, despite needing to refresh her application after a computer error at the Ingham County DHS office.
“I feel 100 percent better now, definitely (have) peace of mind for sure,” she said.
Keenan Forsyth, 27, took a break from his application after a computer error at the same DHS office.
“It can be a little frustrating but if you just take your time I feel like you can get it done,” he said about the application.
But in-person enrollments went smoothly elsewhere in the state. Maryum Rasool, the lead outreach and enrollment specialist at Hamilton Community Health Network, said the network helped enroll 50 people Tuesday without a hitch. People were “ecstatic” to find out they qualified for Medicaid, she said.
“We’re in hard times. They just felt left out. But now I’m happy that I can enroll them and they can walk away with something tangible,” she said.
Booth, a Lansing resident who owns a small production company, has been relying on his state-issued medical marijuana license to treat pain resulting from a broken ankle.
“I feel completed and I feel like a weight is off my shoulders,” he said after submitting his application.
24 Hour News 8’s Heather Walker contributed to this report.