Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, and several state and regional officials held a news conference at the Wayne State University School of Medicine’s Gordon Scott Hall on Oct. 30 to announce the passage of a package of bills codifying the federal Affordable Care Act in Michigan state law.
The ACA prohibits insurance providers from denying health care because of preexisting conditions, sexual preference, gender or gender identify, bans caps on lifetime coverage, and allows dependents to stay on their parents’ health coverage until age 26 – the latter especially important for college students in professional programs like medical, nursing and pharmacy school. It was codified separately into Michigan law Oct. 26.
WSU School of Medicine, College of Nursing and Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences students, faculty and staff packed the Scott Hall Cafeteria to join in the celebration, with dozens lining up behind the speakers’ lectern in support of the law.
School of Medicine fourth-year student and Student Senate President Cullen Hudson was one of two student speakers – the other College of Nursing doctoral student Danyniele Glenn, D.N.P., – selected to speak on behalf of the student body about the importance of the Affordable Care Act in their lives and the lives of those they care for as health care providers-in-training.
“Wayne State University School of Medicine trains outstanding physicians and fosters an environment for culturally-competent faculty and students,” Hudson said. “They provide an invaluable service to those within the city of Detroit and surrounding areas in Wayne County. One thing that I want to touch upon is that health care is not a luxury, but a fundamental right, and Wayne State University School of Medicine is at the forefront of this issue.”
“The Wayne State University School of Medicine vision is more than I can describe. It focuses on providing equitable care, access to care, and comprehensive quality care to those in and around Detroit and the State of Michigan,” he added.
Hudson was selected to introduce Gov. Whitmer, whose remarks concluded the event.
“The laws we pass take a proactive step to shore up health care in Michigan. Because in Michigan, we believe that everyone deserves access to quality, affordable health care,” Whitmer said. “We know that investing in good health is good for the economy. When people get the care they need, they can support themselves. They can fill open jobs. They can pursue higher education. They can start their own business.”
WSU President Kimberly Andrews Espy kicked off the news conference by welcoming guests and media to campus. Wayne State’s “laser focus on caring for the well-being of our community and state,” she referenced student organizations and initiatives like Street Medicine Detroit, Wayne Health’s Mobile Health Units and the College of Nursing’s Taylor Street Primary Care Clinic, among others.
“Governor Whitmer, Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist and legislators, please know Wayne State is excited and committed to doing even more of this outstanding work in, with and for our communities that would otherwise be neglected,” she said.
Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan also spoke, both noting the important contributions Wayne State makes to the health and well-being of city and state residents, including access to quality care, the fight against the rising numbers of preterm birth in the state of Michigan and more.
“This is one of the most important institutions in the nation when it comes to both the progress and the practice of the medical profession,” Gilchrist said. “It’s good to be back here on campus to talk about what we’re doing in moving the practice of medicine forward, because Wayne State has been a key partner with the state of Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer and myself, our entire team and everyone here in state, when it comes to addressing the most important challenges facing health care and the needs of those who need health care, here in the state of Michigan.”
Mayor Duggan used his time at the lectern to compare the new state legislation to when the Michigan government made strides to protect reproductive rights when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022.
“Governor Whitmer really was visionary, and said ‘We’ve learned now what happens when the winds of change come into Washington and we find that federal government wants to strip those rights away. Can we protect Michigan residents long term and guarantee those rights?’ And no institution has played a greater role in assuring access to care than the Wayne State University medical school. You’ve got students in outreach programs across this city,” he said, before referencing leadership like School of Medicine Dean Wael Sakr, M.D., and Department of Medicine Chair Safwan Badr, M.D. “These are people with long roots in this community who believe in access to care. It’s why they are at this institution and it’s why a lot of you students chose to come here.”