WUOMFM

Feds approve Medicaid expansion in Flint to assist with city's water crisis

Mar 3, 2016

The federal government has approved Michigan’s request to expand Medicaid eligibility in Flint. 

A nurse takes a sample of a child's blood to test it for lead.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says pregnant women and people under 21 in Flint are now eligible for the expanded coverage.

The Snyder administration asked the federal government for the expanded Medicaid coverage, as part of its response to the Flint water crisis. There are concerns about the health effects of exposure to Flint’s lead-tainted drinking water. 

The expansion will affect an estimated 15,000 Flint residents.

“Expanding Medicaid coverage to tens of thousands of expectant mothers and youth means the most vulnerable citizens served by the Flint water supply can now be connected to a wide range of needed health and developmental services, including lead blood-level monitoring and behavioral health services,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell in a written statement.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver commended the decision, saying that roughly 45,000 Flint residents are now eligible for Medicaid benefits without cost-sharing or premiums for the next five years.

“It is important that every child and pregnant woman in Michigan get excellent health care to ensure the best possible outcomes for newborns and children,” Weaver said in a written statement. “This waiver should ensure that Flint’s mothers-to-be and our children are given the correct treatment to mitigate their lead exposure and any negative effects."  

Michigan’s congressional delegation pushed the Obama administration to approve the state’s request for a Medicaid waiver.

“For nearly two years, children in Flint were poisoned by their own drinking water because of a series of decisions made by the State of Michigan,” U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow said in a written statement. “This Medicaid expansion … creates hope as well as help for Flint families who are eager to provide their children with the best possible opportunities for healthy and successful lives.” 

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters says he’ll continue to work in Washington to get the resources Flint needs to deal with the water crisis.

“One of the most effective ways to help minimize the long-term impacts of lead exposure is quality, accessible health care,” Peters said in a written statement.

Flint Congressman Dan Kildee says he’s glad to see Flint’s most “vulnerable” residents will have access to the health care they need. 

“I appreciate the swift action by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the federal government to extend these health and developmental services for Flint residents,” Kildee said in a written statement.