A Rural Healthcare Gem in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Photo: Upper Peninsula Health Plan https://www.uphp.com/blog/2016/07/12/brand-evolution-of-upper-peninsula-health-plan/
Photo: Upper Peninsula Health Plan https://www.uphp.com/blog/2016/07/12/brand-evolution-of-upper-peninsula-health-plan/

In September 2012, Governor Rick Snyder decided to support a provision of the federal Affordable Care Act to expand Medicaid in Michigan to include adults over 18.

Medicaid was begun by the federal government in 1966, and most of those covered through Michigan’s Medicaid health programs were under the age of 19. I was the Director of the Michigan Department of Community Health (now the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services) during this time and we were tasked by Governor Snyder to work with the Michigan Legislature to implement the Medicaid expansion provision of the federal law.

In the fall of 2013, after months of hard work by all interested persons in Lansing, a bill was written, passed and signed to expand Medicaid, providing health care to eligible uninsured adults over 18. The key vote to pass the medicaid expansion bill in Michigan was Senator Tom Casperson from the Upper Peninsula.

At the time of passage of the bill, Michigan was the only state that had a Republican Legislature and Governor who supported and passed Medicaid expansion. The bill was called the Healthy Michigan Plan.

At that time, Lansing put partisanship aside and did what was best for the uninsured in Michigan. We projected that over 5 years 450,000 adults would be receiving health care through the Healthy Michigan Plan. The estimate was low, and today 972,000 adult Michiganders representing all 83 counties are enrolled in the Healthy Michigan Plan.

The Upper Peninsula Health Plan (UPHP) located in Marquette was selected by the Department of Community Health to administer the Healthy Michigan Plan in the UP starting in April, 2014. They have done superb work and today over 20,000 adults in the Upper Peninsula’s 15 counties have health care through the Healthy Michigan Plan.

In total, UPHP provides health care to over 50,000 UP residents. Included in that number are the 20,000 adults who are members of the UPHP’s Healthy Michigan Plan. UPHP also offers health care that covers children with special health care needs, health care to children under 18, MI Health Link (persons who have Medicaid and Medicare coverage) and Medicare Advantage for those over 65.

UPHP employs over 160 staff to administer its health programs. They work with thousands of providers in the UP. Melissa Holmquist is the CEO and is a graduate of NMU. She also was recently named to the Advisory Committee searching for the new President of NMU. The large percent of the staff of UPHP are NMU graduates.

It’s great when job opportunities like this are available in the UP so graduates can stay in the area. Keeping individuals healthy in the 15 counties will attract more employers to the UP and keep folks from moving elsewhere.

If you are an adult between the ages of 19-64 without health insurance, it is easy to find out if you are eligible for the Healthy Michigan Plan. You can check out eligibility in one of three ways:

  1. Michigan.gov/mibridges
  2. Call the help line at 1-855-789-5610
  3. Visit a local Department of Social Services office.

Quality health care for an adult and/or family is a vital need at this time. The Covid-19 health issues have just exasperated the need to have adequate health care coverage.

You can trust UPHP to make sure you get the best preventive and ongoing medical care and coverage in the Upper Peninsula. UPHP was recently recognized again as one of the best Medicaid Health Plans in the country by the National Committee for Quality Assessment.

Delivering quality health care in rural Michigan is not an easy task, and to be recognized as one of the best in the USA is a true tribute to excellence.

More and more people are visiting and experiencing the rural wonders of the UP. You don’t need to go elsewhere to find rural health gems.

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Jim Haveman

Jim Haveman has been a frequent visitor to the UP since 1966. He is a former Board of Trustee Member of Northern Michigan University, and former Director of Michigan Department of Community Health for Governors Engler and Snyder.


  1. Dennis Smith on February 16, 2022 at 8:04 am

    Thank you Jim for recognizing the great work this dedicated and talented group of UP Residents provide for their neighbors 😊

  2. Paul Anthony Sturgul on February 16, 2022 at 9:30 am

    Wisconsin remains one of the 12 states (most of the rest are in the Old Confederacy) that have refused to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The American Rescue Plan Act (March 11, 2021) contained a $1 billion incentive – for virtually anthing the state wanted – to Wisconsin if it would accept Medicaid expansion under the ACA. This would be in addition to $630 million from the 90% federal share of Medicaid expansion under the ACA. Governor Evers called a special session of the legislature in May to accept this money. He listed projects the $1 billion would be earmarked for, such as grants to help revive and save the closed Park Falls and Wisconsin Rapids Paper Mill. Assembly speaker Vos opened and within a minute, closed the special session, so there was not able to even be any debate on this. [In a lame duck session following Governor Walker’s defeat by Evers, the Republican dominated legislature passed a law takig away the governor’s ability to accept the Medicaid expansion under the ACA without legislative approval.]. So now 90,000 Wisconites continue to be deprived of Medicaid under the ACA. And the federal taxes paid by Wisconsinites are used to fund Medicaid expansion in all its neighboring states, including Michigan – the expansion of which has not only provided health coverage to 20,000 residents of the UP (according the Rural Insights article) but has provided new employment for over 160 staff. I just don’t get such bad governance and lack of stewardship.

    • Jim Schuster on February 17, 2023 at 11:30 am

      I don’t know why anybody would be opposed to improving the health rural Americans. There are so many long term chronic medical conditions that go untreated because of a lack of insurance for hospital, doctor and prescriptions. We know many people who -needlessly- lost body parts to untreated diabetes. Too many families lost fathers, and mothers, due to untreated heart conditions.
      I don’t get it.

  3. Ann Hilton Fisher on February 16, 2022 at 8:52 pm

    It’s been so great for so many people. I have a friend who was able to get a great primary care provider and is getting treatment for diabetes for the first time. She used to have to go to the ER when she had a crisis. Now she just calls her doctor. She’s also getting dental care she never had. It makes such a difference.

  4. John Frick on February 17, 2022 at 7:37 am

    I am a volunteer patient transporter for UPHP (driving clients to and from their appointments) and it gives me no end of personal satisfaction to help those in need. I’ve met some wonderful people “in our travels” and all are very appreciative of the service provided by UPHP. What a great organization.

  5. Duncan O. Wyeth on February 17, 2022 at 11:56 am

    As a former state administrator in the arena of disability rights ( and a person with a life-long disability) I had
    the opportunity to have frequent contact with Jim. He has always been an influential advocate for persons
    with disabilities and their families. He was ( to my knowledge) the only state department Director to make
    a personal financial contribution to the founding of the Superior Alliance for Independent Living ( SAIL )
    based in Marquette. Now that I am retired and living in the Keweenaw, I am very pleased that Jim is still
    actively educating Michigan citizens about these critical programs and services.

    Duncan Wyeth, Eagle Harbor, February 17th

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