Michigan: Sen. Peters, Rep. Kildee request Open Enrollment extension for Flint residents

A few minutes ago I noted that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, currently in the hot seat for poisoning nearly 100,000 of his residents, has formally requested full Medicaid coverage for every Flint resident under the age of 21 (around 30,000 people, as far as I can tell). While my post was sarcastic, the need is real, and while it's revolting that Snyder would try to get the federal government to literally pay for his administration's crime, the move itself makes sense.

Here's a related development which makes sense as well (thanks to Rachel Karas for the link): A letter from U.S. Senator Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee to HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell (emphasis added):

January 22, 2016

Dear Secretary Burwell:

The drinking water emergency in Flint will have implications that extend far beyond today and will require a significant amount of support from health care stakeholders. We appreciate the Department of Health and Human Service's leadership role to mitigate the impact of this disaster, which was the direct result of poor decision making by the state of Michigan. It is critical that we do our best to ensure families in Flint have access to the health care services they will certainly need. We ask that you commit additional resources to assist Flint famlies to secure health care coverage before the January 31, 2016 open enrollment deadline.

Currently, we are pursuing all avenues of outreach -- including using our congressional staff and resources to ensure Flint residents have the information they need to enroll in health care coverage. The health implications of this catastrophe are severe and its impact is irreversible, but signing Flint residents up for quality health care insurance will improve their long-term health outcomes.

We understand the Department of Health and Human Services has existing resources that can be used to conduct significant outreach and spread awareness to individuals about available health plans. We urge you to direct additional resources to Flint that can be used to enroll residents in health care coverage. Importantly, we ask that you engage and coordinate with clergy, schools, water distribution centers and other local stakeholders as you deem appropriate.

In addition, given the severity of this crisis, we ask that you assess whether it is appropriate to extend the open enrollment period for Flint residents. We are working diligently to increase health care enrollment in Flint ahead of the approaching deadline. However, a special enrollment period would provide more time for Flint residents to enroll in quality health plans that are vital to their future health.

Thank you for your timely consideration of this request and for your work in the City of Flint. Please do not hesistate to contact our offices should you have any further questions or concerns.


Gary C. Peters, U.S. Senator
Dan Kildee, Member of Congress

Flint has around 100,000 people, over 41% of whom are below the poverty level. My guess is that the vast majority of the other 60,000 are likely between 100-400% FPL, which means that practically all of them should qualify for Advance Premium Tax Credits (APTC) and cost sharing reduction (CSR) assistance if they enroll in a policy via Healthcare.Gov. While I don’t know if HHS will extend the 1/31 deadline, and in a just world Snyder would pick up the tab for those folks as well, it’d still be a very good idea for every uninsured person in Flint to get covered ASAP.

UPDATE: As I noted in my update to the Snyder/Medicaid post, it's actually probably more like 60% or more of Flint's population that qualifies for Medicaid, so we're really talking about no more than perhaps 40,000 people at most (and obviously many of those folks are already covered via Medicare or private insurance anyway).