Severe impact predicted in Michigan if new health care bill passes

By ISAAC CONSTANS

Capital News Service

LANSING — About 2.5 million Michiganders could lose health care coverage under the Republican-proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act, according to the Michigan League for Public Policy.

The study comes on the heels of a Congressional Budget Office projection that the recently introduced American Health Care Act(AHCA)  would cause 24 million people to lose their insurance over 10 years, while reducing the federal deficit by about $337 billion.

The Republican proposal jeopardizes the Healthy Michigan Plan, the Michigan Medicaid expansion that has insured 650,000 residents under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. The ACA would be repealed and replaced with the AHCA. Continue reading

Physician assistants could expand access to health care

By BRIDGET BUSH

Capital News Service

LANSING — Patients would gain greater access to health care if lawmakers approve a bill that would let physician assistants practice with less supervision and make it easier for some of them to prescribe drugs.

The measure would make Michigan the first state to offer that level of autonomy.

The idea is to help physician assistants better reach and serve patients, said Michael DeGrow, executive director for the Michigan Academy of Physician Assistants. The legislation will make it easier for them to practice in many different counties.

For example, if you’re homebound with a chronic condition in rural Northern Michigan, multiple visits to outpatient health care may not be possible. Physician assistants can help better serve these patients, DeGrow said.

Current law creates a burdensome reliance on physicians when prescribing medicine, he said. This bill would relieve that bottleneck, while allowing individual physicians to decide the terms of oversight that best fits their practice. Continue reading

Despite insurance, people skip doctor visits due to cost

By KAREN HOPPER USHER

Capital News Service

LANSING — More Michiganders have health insurance but still skip doctor visits and blame it on cost.

In 2015, nearly 13 percent of Michiganders said they hadn’t been to the doctor in the past 12 months because of the cost, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, which conducts the Michigan Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System every year.

That’s too many, said  Robert Jackson, president of the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians.

“The whole thing is disturbing,” he said, because more visits to a primary care physician lead to lower costs and better health in the long run. Continue reading

Diversity in health care coming too slowly for some

By AMELIA HAVANEC
Capital News Service

LANSING – Health experts urging more diversity in Michigan’s health care workforce may see graduation statistics from local universities as good news.

In the 2013-2014 academic year, more than a quarter of medical school graduates from Wayne State University and the University of Michigan – 27 percent and 36 percent respectively – were minorities, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Set.

In that same year, according to the data, minority students constituted 37 percent of the graduating class at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry, up 68 percent from its preceding graduating class.
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Push underway to expand telehealth services

By YUEHAN LIU
Capital News Service

LANSING—A new federal proposal co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Gary Peters would expand access to health care, especially in rural areas.

The Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act would require Medicare to work with local providers to expand their telehealth services.

“Telehealth has revolutionized health care, helping more patients receive life-saving treatment, and we must ensure that people living in rural areas have equal access to the care they need,” Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, said in an announcement.
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More long-term care options pushed

By XINJUAN DENG

Capital News Service

LANSING – Michigan can improve long-term care by providing more home and community-based services as alternatives to nursing home care, AARP Michigan says, but an industry group cautions that nursing facilities are crucial to the state’s health care system.

According to the AARP, 35 states spend fewer Medicaid dollars on nursing home care than Michigan. Those states’ services include aides and nurses who visit seniors in their homes.

Lisa Cooper, manager of advocacy at AARP Michigan, said, “Michigan currently spends only 21.6 percent of our long-term care budget for older adults and people with disabilities on home and community-based services. We spend 78.4 percent of our long-term care dollars on nursing home care.” Continue reading

School clinics stay open despite budget cuts

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By CAITLIN COSTELLO
Capital News Service

LANSING— Thanks to a school clinic, Jasmine Magalski doesn’t have to leave school every Wednesday to get her allergy shots.

The clinic at Alcona Elementary is one of 69 school clinics that lost state aid with the latest budget cuts.

It and the others remain open, but with 10 percent less state aid, said Kyle Gerrant, supervisor of coordinated school health and safety programs at the Department of Education.

Magalski’s mother, Chelsea Travis, is thankful.

“She is able to get treatment without leaving school instead of treatments taking time away from her education, and I think that is really important,” Travis said.

Because clinic services are available, parents don’t have to leave work to pick up sick children or take them to medical appointments, said Paula Welling, a nurse practitioner at the clinic, which is coordinated by the Alcona Health Center.

Christine Baumgardner, executive director of Alcona Health Center, said, “It is so hard to get these services up here anyways, virtually impossible, and we can do this at no cost to the families.”

The clinic, now in its third year, provides on-site primary health care, counseling services, health promotion, disease prevention and education services.

According to Welling, many students also receive asthma treatment and behavior counseling at the clinic.

The school saw a 65 percent decrease in bullying and harassment reports from the 2005-06 to 2006-07 school year due to behavior counseling, Welling said.

The Alcona clinic also runs health promotion activities such as nutrition, fitness and weight management programs.

Welling said the Education Department recognizes that each community is different, so clinics are encouraged to specialize to meet local needs.

Alcona has one of the few elementary school clinics. Most are at middle or high schools, said Welling.

Nearby, Onaway High School opened a clinic this fall.

Guerrant said the state wanted to provide grants for six new clinics this year, but because of budget cuts it was able to only fund three.

Baumgardner said it’s uncertain how Alcona Elementary will cope with the budget cuts. Options include continuing the current program on $25,000 less in state aid or cutting hours.

“I understand the state is trying hard to keep these clinics so we’re going to do our best to accommodate the lower grant dollars,” she said.

Welling said parents have been vocal about the need to continue the program, sending letters to the Legislature and testifying at community meetings.

“It’s working, because we are still here,” she said.

Baumgardner adds, “If the state is looking for programs that give you a phenomenal bang for your buck, school-based clinics are doing it.”

© 2009, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.