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State Representative Rheingans Introduces MiCare, a Universal Healthcare System for Michigan

LANSING, Mich., June 30, 2023 — State Rep. Carrie A. Rheingans (D-Ann Arbor) re-introduced last term’s HB 5966 this week. This legislation would create the MiCare program, a universal, publicly funded healthcare system for all Michigan residents.

“Healthcare is a fundamental human right,” Rheingans said. “All 10 million Michiganders, regardless of where in the state they live, should have high quality, affordable healthcare. Michiganders deserve to have the freedom to receive the care that they need without fear of bankruptcy.”

“The system that we have has been failing us. For years, we have heard from the healthcare industry that with multiple competing payers, the market will course correct whenever costs get too high or benefits are restricted. Year after year, we hear this, but we still haven't seen it. We need a different way forward.”

As of last year, 1.3 million Michiganders had medical debt, totalling more than $800 million., When asked about the affordability of their healthcare, 47% of American adults reported that it was very or somewhat difficult to afford their healthcare costs. Twenty-three percent of American adults said that they or a family member in their household did not fill a prescription, cut their pills in half, or skipped doses of medication in the last year, citing cost as the reason.

Patients, providers, and advocates agree: this is unacceptable.

“Michigan deserves healthcare that is universal, simple, and affordable,” Marjorie Mitchell, Executive Director of MichUHCAN said. “Today’s healthcare system leaves tens of thousands uninsured, is incredibly complex, and on top of that, is outrageously expensive. MiCare addresses all of these issues. MichUHCAN strongly supports Rep. Rheingans’ bold legislation!”

MiCare will be a publicly funded system, using today’s mix of private and public providers to deliver comprehensive physical, dental, and mental healthcare for all Michiganders with no deductibles, copays, or premiums. The system will be designed to save Michiganders money by cutting down on excessive administrative costs and treating health care like a right, instead of a for-profit industry.

“MiCare is the legislative architecture to create what we all deserve: quality, affordable, accessible, and comprehensive health care regardless of our status in the community or our ability to pay,” William Farmer, Chairperson of Michigan for Single Payer Healthcare, said. “MiCare is the only healthcare system that can provide expanded coverage, save us money, control costs, provide us true freedom of choice, and prepare us for the healthcare challenges of the future. We commend Representative Rheingans' leadership!”

Yousef Rabhi, former House Democratic Floor Leader and current Washtenaw County Commissioner, was the original sponsor of MiCare and has only seen healthcare affordability worsen since he first introduced the bill in 2018.

"Healthcare is a right that must be equally guaranteed to all,” Rabhi said. “Our profit-driven system is broken, inefficient, and inhumane. Michiganders deserve to live with dignity and should never be forced to choose between getting lifesaving care and keeping the lights on at home or buying food to feed their families. I was proud to sponsor this legislation for many years and applaud Rep. Rheingans for carrying this issue forward today."

It’s not just patients and advocates, practitioners in the field see how broken our current system is. Jamie Brown, RN, a critical care nurse and President of the Michigan Nurses Association, has witnessed the challenges of our current system and the need for change first hand.

“Everyone deserves access to health care -- and that means everyone, not just people who can afford it,” Brown said. “Nurses see the heartbreaking cost of our broken system every day: too many people of all ages are going without, or delaying, desperately needed health care. MiCare will save lives and make Michigan a much healthier, stronger state.”

In addition, many practitioners report the profit motive of the current system as negatively impacting their ability to deliver high-quality care.

“As a retired family doctor, I support the MiCare legislation in the Michigan state house,” Dr. Susan Fabrick, MD from Fruitport, MI said. “As a primary care physician from 1991 to 2021, I have seen the increase in methodical extraction of profit from every healthcare interaction. It now takes multiple clerical employees to handle billing, referrals and 'quality improvement' measures as well as the constant headache of seeking approvals for medications, referrals, and testing. Primary care physicians, nurses, and medical workers in every category are burning out at an ever increasing rate. The amount of time primary care physicians spend documenting care rivals the amount of time they can spend with their patients. Patient care suffers as the overall medical system pays far more attention to maximizing profits than to human beings who are suffering and need medical care.”

Rheingans, a health policy expert, acknowledges that this major healthcare system change will be an uphill battle. “I ran for this office to make universal healthcare a reality for Michiganders. I will not stop fighting for universal, affordable healthcare, even if it takes the rest of my time in the legislature.”

The current version of MIcare, HB 4893 of 2023, will be available online on July 18. It is identical to last term’s version, HB 5966 of 2022.

Over the summer, Representative Rheingans plans to host and attend a series of town halls across the state to discuss Michiganders’ experience with the current healthcare system and what they would like to see moving forward. If you are a part of an advocacy group and would like to host a town hall in your area, please contact Rep. Rheingans’ office here:

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