Washtenaw County commissioners took the first step toward becoming a charter member of the Washtenaw Health Initiative (WHI), an effort to expand health care coverage for the county’s low-income residents. The membership includes a $10,000 annual fee in both 2012 and 2013, which would be funded through the county’s office of community and economic development.
The 8-1 vote at the board of commissioners’ March 21, 2012 meeting included dissent from Alicia Ping, who said she preferred funds to go directly to services, not for administrative purposes. Barbara Bergman was absent and Ronnie Peterson was out of the room when the vote was taken. Final approval is expected at the board’s April 4 meeting.
The board has been briefed on the initiative, most recently at a Feb. 16, 2012 working session. The plan is intended to help local health care providers handle an influx of an estimated 50,000 newly insured patients when federal health care reforms take effect in 2014. The goal is to develop a plan to provide better health care for the county’s low-income residents, the uninsured and people on Medicaid – prior to changes that will be mandated by the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The WHI is a collaboration co-chaired by former county administrator Bob Guenzel and retired University of Michigan treasurer Norman Herbert, who both attended the March 21 meeting, along with Ellen Rabinowitz, executive director of the Washtenaw Health Plan. The effort is jointly sponsored by the UM Health System and Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, and faciliated by Marianne Udow-Phillips, director of the Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation – a joint venture of UM and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
Other partners involved in the project include the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber of Commerce, Arbor Hospice, Catholic Social Services, Dawn Farm, Hope Clinic, Huron Valley Ambulance, Integrated Health Associates, Packard Health, Planned Parenthood of Mid and South Michigan, United Way of Washtenaw County, and the Women’s Center of Southeastern Michigan.
Organizers say they hope this initiative will become a model for other communities nationwide that are facing similar issues.
This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building, 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: [link]