Researchers find rate of Michigan uninsured drops below 10 percent

four people at table
From left are President Thomas J. Haas, Jean Nagelkerk, Kevin Callison and Leslie Muller.
Image credit - Valerie Wojciechowski
woman at podium
Jean Nagelkerk
Image credit - Valerie Wojciechowski
man at microphone seated
Kevin Callison
Image credit - Valerie Wojciechowski
woman at microphone seated
Leslie Muller
Image credit - Valerie Wojciechowski

Researchers from Grand Valley and Tulane universities have found the rate of people without health insurance in Michigan has dropped below 10 percent, yet barriers to obtaining health care remain problematic.

Kevin Callison, assistant professor of global health management and policy at Tulane University, and Leslie Muller, assistant professor of economics at Grand Valley, presented the Health Check report January 12 during the ninth annual West Michigan Health Care Economic Forecast held at the Eberhard Center. 

The report, available at, details health-related trends and issues in Michigan and the Grand Rapids metropolitan area of Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon and Allegan counties.

Callison said the drop in the number of people without health insurance fell more than 18 percent from 2011 to 9.9 percent in 2016. He attributed the decrease to Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act. He was a faculty member in Grand Valley's Seidman College of Business before working at Tulane.

Muller said while there is a low uninsured rate in Kent County, about one in five people surveyed still reported a difficult time affording medical care and/or prescription drugs. Grand Valley's Johnson Center for Philanthropy partnered with researchers for the community survey using 2017 VoiceKent (formerly VoiceGR) results.

Barriers to health care included the ability to take time off from work, transportation and childcare issues, Muller said. Extended office hours and telemedicine may help eliminate some of those barriers, she added.

The Health Check also analyzes major medical expenditures. Callison noted the cost to treat someone in West Michigan who has coronary artery disease (CAD) has risen 37 percent from 2014 to 2016, nearing $30,000 per individual per year. He added the CAD cost is higher in West Michigan than the Detroit region; it's the only chronic condition of six studied that was more expensive in West Michigan than Detroit.

Health risk factors for Michigan residents were analyzed. Selected factors are listed below.

• 7% of the state's population is classified as heavy drinkers, above the national average of 6 percent.

• 20.4% of Michigan adults smoke, higher than the national average of 15.1 percent.

• 65% of Michigan adults are overweight or obese, similar to the national average.

Jean Nagelkerk, vice provost for health at Grand Valley, said the data within the report will guide area health care leaders when making decisions.

“We hope that continuing to provide this report annually facilitates better understanding of how health behaviors, growth trends, and health care access can impact our decisions and strategies for addressing health care issues in our region," Nagelkerk said.

Data was provided by Spectrum Health, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Blue Care Network, Priority Health, GVSU Johnson Center for Philanthropy, and The Employers Association of West Michigan.



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