Michigan rollout of low-income health care exceeds expectations

By BECKY McKENDRY

Capital News Service

LANSING – In only three weeks the state’s Medicaid expansion program that gives health coverage to low-income residents is almost halfway to its yearly signup goal.

The Healthy Michigan program started enrolling low-income residents for comprehensive health coverage on April 1. By April 21, nearly 140,000 people had signed up for the plan – 43 percent of the 320,000 people the state hoped would enroll by the end of the year.

Coverage under Healthy Michigan provides all services required by federal standards, such as emergency services, maternity care and mental health treatment.

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Push on for more children’s health centers

By DANIELLE WOODWARD

Capital News Service

LANSING — The Department of Community Health is pushing for a program that would expand health centers for poor children to also treat mental illness.

Department and child health center officials are pushing for a $2 million expansion of the program, which has been around for 25 years.

This expansion would create new health centers that offer individual and family counseling, screening for mental disorders and prevention services for suicide and bullying, according to department officials.

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Fewer teens get pregnant except for those 10-14

By LACEE SHEPARD

Capital News Service

LANSING — Teen pregnancies are on the decline in the state except among the youngest girls, a Department of Community Health (DCH) report shows.

The most recent report from 2012 shows that there was a slight increase from 2011 in pregnancies among those 10-14. After decades of steady decreases, the number increased from 94 to 105 reported teen pregnancies.

The reduction of other unintended pregnancies could be a result of the statewide goal to reduce infant mortality, said Angela Minicuci, the information director at DCH.

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Rural hospitals face new uncertainties after health care reforms start

By DARCIE MORAN

Capital News Service

LANSING — With health care reform falling into place, rural Michigan hospitals can now breath a sigh of relief, and then start a new waiting game.

The slow recovery from the recession and the struggle for healthcare reform hit rural hospitals in Michigan, and across the country, hard, said Ethan Lipkind, CEO and president of Michigan Rural Healthcare Preservation and the Michigan Clinic.

The first week of April marked the close of open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act and the effective date of Medicaid expansion in Michigan. And with the economy starting to rise out of recession, Michigan rural hospitals are waiting to see just what the changes will mean.

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Your genes may be to blame for binge eating and obesity

By LACEE SHEPARD

Capital News Service

LANSING — A recent study of rats at Michigan State University could lead to identifying a genetic cause of binge eating.

An MSU psychologist gave two strains of rats – the Wistar and Sprague- Dawley rats – vanilla frosting for two weeks to see if they developed binge eating at different rates. Binge eating is an excessive consumption of food at one time. .

The result points to a genetic difference between the two strains that affects how likely they are to develop the eating disorder.

“We’ve never been able to find this specific gene in humans,” said Kelly Klump, an MSU psychology professor. “Now we’re looking at animals that are a lot less complex, genetically, as well as a lot less complex in terms of their environment.”

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Bill would prohibit employers from asking about birth control

By DANIELLE WOODWARD

Capital News Service

LANSING — Employers couldn’t discriminate against employees who use birth control or have had abortions under a new bill recently introduced by lawmakers.

“It is mainly to protect women from discrimination and questioning from employers on whether or not they use birth control or have had an abortion,” said Rep. Marcie Hovey-Wright, D-Muskegon, who is the primary sponsor of the bill.

The bill is pushed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“It is really based on the recent controversy over employees who don’t want to cover birth control in their insurance plans,” said Shelli Weisberg, legislative director for the group. “That gave rise towards companies acting discriminatory towards females that have taken birth control or who have had an abortion.”

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Beach closings down but pollution still murky

By QING ZHANG

Capital News Service

LANSING – The number of closings or health safety advisories due to pollution at Michigan’s more than 1,200 public and nearly 500 private beaches has dropped the past three years.BeachClosureGraphic

“Surface water quality is generally showing improvement where programs are in place to correct problems and restore water quality,” according to the 2014 Integrated Report for Water Quality and Pollution Control in Michigan by the state’s Department of Environmental Quality.

But taking the long view, parts of the state’s coastal environment may not be as promising as they appear.

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More snow means more snowmobiling, but not an increase in accidents

By DARCIE MORAN

Capital News Service

LANSING — Despite the near-record snowfall in Michigan that created a banner year for snow-related sports, snowmobile fatalities haven’t climbed with the piles of snow.

Nine snowmobile fatalities were reported this season as of mid February, said Cpl. John Morey, the Department of Natural Resources off-road vehicle and snowmobile coordinator. By about this time last year, 13 fatal snowmobile accidents had taken place.

An additional fatal accident not yet on the department record happened Feb. 19 in Luce County, according to the sheriff’s department.

“It’s a little under what it was last year despite having a high activity snowmobile season,” Morey said.

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Tooth decay widespread, but so is the war against it

By ASHLEY WEIGEL

Capital News Service

LANSING – One of the greatest health risks for Michigan children is right under their noses.

Photo from the Michigan League for Public Policy

Photo from the Michigan League for Public Policy

Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease for children, said Angela Minicuci, public information officer of the Michigan Department of Community Health.

More than half of all third graders—58 percent—have some tooth decay, according to the Department of Community Health, and 25 percent of those problems are left untreated.

Dentists are distributing toothbrushes and educational materials in schools to students and teachers during February, said Tom Kochheiser, director of public affairs for the Michigan Dental Association, because it is National Children’s Oral Health month. Tooth decay is a big issue afflicting children, even though it is preventable through regular brushing, flossing and a healthy diet, Kochheiser said.

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State and local health officials struggle to anticipate disease threats from climate change

By DANIELLE WOODWARD

Capital News Service

LANSING — State health officials are struggling to anticipate new health threats posed by a changing climate.

The Michigan Department of Community Health has put together the Michigan Climate and Health Adaptation program to prepare for any health risks the climate change may bring.  The program was recently renewed with a grant from the Centers for Disease Control.

The unusual weather brought on by climate change can have health consequences that range from something as minor as dehydration to as serious as a West Nile virus outbreak, said Angela Minicuci, a public information officer for the state health department.

“Our primary goals are that climate change will be recognized as a public issue and integrated into a public health practice,” said Dominic Smith, the state health department community health educator.

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