By BROOKE MEIER
Capital News Service
LANSING – In Montcalm County, hard economics times and the elimination of jobs has
drastically boosted the number of Medicaid-eligible residents over the last seven years.
From 1999 to 2006, Montcalm County health officials recorded an increase of more than
65 percent in the number of eligible residents, from around 6,000 in 1999 to 10,424 in 2006.
There was also a significant statewide hike in participants, 40 percent, from 1999 to
2006. Currently, 1.5 million Michigan residents are eligible for Medicaid.
According to the Michigan State Medical Society (MSMS), nearly one in every seven
Michigan residents now receives health care through Medicaid, a state program that provides
services for low-income families and individuals.
Kim Singh, a health officer for the Mid-Michigan District Health Department, said, “The
continued increase in individual Medicaid eligibility is a reflection of the economy. It is
something we continue to see rising as jobs are lost.”
Montcalm County experienced heavy blows to its economy when companies such as
Electrolux and Hitachi Magnetics left the area, eliminating more than 2,800 jobs over the last
Michigan has 26 Medicaid programs, and eligibility depends on the plans offered in each
For example, Montcalm residents can apply for three programs: Health Plan of MI (621
members); Molina Healthcare of MI program (4,094 members); and Priority Health Government
Programs Inc. program (2,155 members), according to the Department of Community Health.
Total enrollment in Montcalm is 6,870, about 10.7 percent of the county’s population.
Singh said the rising cost of healthcare and the rising number of participants has led
many medical practitioners in the county to reject new Medicaid patients.
According to Singh, many doctors belonging to the Michigan Medical P.C. (MMPC)
refuse new Medicaid patients.
Katy Atchison, a marketing analyst at MMPC, said the group had no comment on why it
doesn’t accept them.
Dr. Paul Farr, president of MSMS and a physician in Grand Rapids, said more doctors
shy away from Medicaid patients because they can’t afford to help them.
“It is getting harder and harder to treat Medicaid patients. The offices don’t get enough
money from Medicaid to cover the cost of treatment,” he said.
David Fox, director of public relations at MSMS, said Medicaid covers only 30 percent to
60 percent of the cost of care, “When Medicaid only pays a small percentage for these visits, it’s
up to the doctors to absorb the loss, and many practices can’t afford to take these hits.”
Singh said rejection of Medicaid patients means the patients must seek help elsewhere,
such as the emergency rooms of local hospitals, or put their names on a waiting list until a spot is
open at a physician’s office.
Dr. Ronald Steury, director of Sheridan Community Hospital’s emergency room, said
one-third of the patients in the ER are on Medicaid, as are half of the walk-in clinic’s patients.
Steury said it’s frustrating for the hospital when Medicaid patients come in Monday
through Friday during local doctors’ regular office hours.
“They come in for high blood pressures problems and sore throats, things that should be
taken care of at a family doctor’s office, but they can’t get in because so many doctors won’t
accept them,” he said.
“Timely treatment is very important,” Singh said. “Emergency rooms are the most
expensive to cover, so we need to eliminate these barriers that force these patients to go
Steury said Sheridan Community Hospital physicians accept Medicaid at their family
health care offices: Sheridan Care in Sheridan, Stanton 1st Care in Stanton and Edmore Care in
Although few local dentists accept Medicaid patients, Singh said Stanton Dentist Center
does. The clinic is part of the Mid-Michigan District Health Department, which is trying to
expand access to care for Medicaid recipients and working to get eligible residents enrolled.
Singh said local hospitals and the Montcalm Human Services Coalition are also trying to
get health care to uninsured residents.
Lisa Lund, of the coalition said promoting health care is an important goal of the
organization and its member agencies.
The coalition is made up of leaders from agencies that use social programs to help the
county’s more needy residents.
Currently, the Medicaid program is facing a 6.5 percent budget cut to ease the state’s
Fox said, “It’s a bleak picture and it just keeps getting bleaker.”