LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) - This past summer, Michigan lawmakers voted to delay the start of medicaid expansion, which they say will provide health coverage to thousands of uninsured people in the state. Because it won't kick in until April, the delay may result in the state losing millions and many people getting hit with fines.
"I have no primary care doctor or anything," said Levi Taulbee, who doesn't have health insurance and rely's on free clinics. "Yeah, free clinics, or let's see, the med bus. That pulls right up here."
He manages now, but under the Affordable Care Act, if he doesn't buy insurance come January 1, he'll get hit with fines.
In August, the state Senate voted to expand Medicaid to provide coverage for thousands of uninsured people like Taulbee. Good news for him, except the legislature also voted to delay the expansion to April.
Until then, state health department officials say he's on his own.
"They may not be able to afford buying health insurance, so at that time, they may just be subject to penalties from the federal government," said Angela Minicuci, with the Michigan Department of Community Health.
Not only will the delay leave many uninsured people vulnerable, officials at the state budget office say it's also going to cost the state millions.
"Since the legislature didn't pass the bill with immediate effect, the savings has now gone down," said Farah Hanley, the section manager in the state budget office.
Hanley says Michigan stands to lose about $73 million in savings because what would be federal funding, now comes from the state.
"$73 million is a lot of money and we want to make sure we're protecting the programs," said Hanley.
If lawmakers don't reverse their decision, thousands like Taulbee may start 2014 uninsured.
Officials at the state budget office say they've had discussions with lawmakers and are hopeful they'll reverse the medicaid delay and begin providing coverage to people without insurance by January 1.
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