MUSKEGON, Mich. — U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, has proposed legislation to fund community-based health care programs that have been crafted as middleground between private and publicly funded insurance.
A multi-share coverage model requires contributions from the individual, their employer or educator, the government, and a sponsoring health care organization like Access Health in Muskegon.
Access Health covers about 500 people in West Michigan, each of whom pay about $75 per month. Many of Access Health’s members make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to afford private insurance.
However, Access Health has been running out of money for the past four years, according to Executive Director Jeff Fortenbacher.
Huizenga’s legislation would require the secretary of health and human services to grant $36 million over four years to five multi-share health care programs like Access Health, where he made the announcement on Monday.
“It would be my intent to strongly advocate that Muskegon would be one of those, Access Health would be one of those five pilot sites,” Huizenga said. “I mean you guys already invented the wheel, so let’s continue with that.”
Huizenga said now that the legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House, he plans to recruit bipartisan supporters. The funding would also provide educational and occupational training.
“I think a lot of people know the story of the need but they may not necessarily know the story of what has been happening here in Muskegon,” Huizenga said. “I can tell you that as we’ve started to talk about this with colleagues, there’s a lot of excitement because we know that health care is not gonna go away as an issue, right? It is still a major piece of policy that we have to tackle. Everybody’s looking for different ways, innovative ways to deal with it.”
Huizenga said it’s not clear yet how the five sites would be chosen but it would likely involve an application process. The five sites chosen for funding could be anywhere in the country.
Huizenga’s Democratic opponent in the 2020 election, the Rev. Bryan Berghoef has been an avid supporter of the Affordable Care Act and said if elected, he would build on it.
“I support a system where people have a choice between private and public options,” Berghoef said in a statement. “While doing everything possible to protect people from abuses as well as streamlining the administration of health care to reduce waste and complexity in the system.”
Berghoef accuses Huizenga of failing the American people by repeatedly voting against the Affordable Care Act.
“I support working across the aisle on bipartisan solutions to build on the foundation of the ACA, knowing some improvements are needed, and also restoring some of the provisions overturned by the Trump administration with the help of Bill Huizenga, in order that more people can have access to the quality care they need,” Berghoef said.
According to the Michigan Household Survey on Health Insurance, 7.8% of Michigan residents are uninsured.