Health care advocates and experts joined together Wednesday evening to discuss challenges of rising medical costs and transportation barriers for low-income families.
The roundtable discussion in Lansing was part of a “Costs of Care” tour hosted by freshman U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly). Many of the attendees came from the Davies Project, a Lansing nonprofit that provides support for families with children facing health challenges by providing rides to medical appointments.
During the congressional break, Slotkin has been traveling around the 8th Congressional District visiting hospitals, pharmacies, addiction services, mental health services and schools. She said she wants to learn from constituents and drive legislation to address rising health care costs and lack of accessibility to care.
At Wednesday night’s roundtable, Slotkin called this a “systemic issue with transportation and childcare.”
Dr. Stephen Guertin, a pediatrician at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, said that locally, these roadblocks are costing families and the health care providers.
“If a health care system doesn’t create access, the patients, for one reason or another, can’t use it. That’s got good for either,” Guertein said. “But a hospital doesn’t figure it’s in the transportation business.”
According to statistics provided by the Davies Project, 70% of the children who rely on the local subspecialty clinics in the Lansing area are on Medicaid. The lack of affordable or reliable transportation options contributes to a 60% missed appointment rate for children.
Much of the conversation centered around the intersection of poverty and health care for children, but Slotkin also said she wants to see what a similar support system for seniors would look like.
“One of the takeaway that I have is that you all serve the population of young kids, and I want to see the mirror image for the elderly,” she said.
Slotkin expressed interest in using the Davies Project’s model nationwide.
Slotkin briefly mentioned the President Trump administration’s rules on short-term health plans and “repeated attacks on the Affordable Care Act” in recent months. Short-term health plans, often called “junk plans,” are inexpensive insurance options that do not cover pre-existing conditions.
The U.S. House passed a bill in May that reversed Trump’s guidance to give states more power to waive requirements of the federal health care law. The Democratic legislation passed with a 230-183 vote.
“We have already fought off one attempt to do this,” she said.
In June, Slotkin introduced H.R. 3415, a bipartisan bill called the Real-Time Benefits Act, which aims to ensure patients and providers are aware of prescription prices before leaving the doctor’s office. If passed, the bill would be implemented through an electronic system that would compare costs of local pharmacies, account for insurance and let patients know the out-of-pocket costs.