For the undocumented aging, medical care is challenging

By JOSHUA BENDER
Capital News Service
LANSING — Luis Valencia said he came to Detroit from Mexico 10 years ago with his mother and brothers to escape drug dealers. He had drawn the ire of a drug cartel because of his reporting on their activities, said Valencia, a journalist. Today, his mother has severe diabetes and may soon require expensive dialysis, he said. But that’s not an option because of his family’s undocumented status. Doctors have advised him to return his mother to Mexico to receive treatment they can better afford, he said.

Rural areas lack mental health professionals

By ZHAO PENG
Capital News Service
LANSING — Amid a national shortage of psychiatrists, and Michigan is among the states that lack enough mental health professionals and facilities, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “There is a shortage of service providers, psychiatrists and physicians that are able to work with people that have mental illness and prescribe medications,” said Kathleen Gross, executive director of the Michigan Psychiatric Society. “There is shortage of funding in the state for community mental health centers to provide a great deal of service to the citizens.”
The U.P. and Northeast Michigan face the most serious shortages, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. Among 15 U.P. counties, 13 are designated as shortage areas. Ten of the 11 Northeast Michigan counties have the same designation.

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. “Overall, I would say it’s a declining industry,” Lipkind said.

U.P.'s yo-yoing population puzzles pros

By MATTHEW HALL
Capital News Service
LANSING – A curious, century-old population trend in the Upper Peninsula shows a yo-yoing cycle of growth and decline every 20 years. The U.P. grew slightly in the 1910s, 1930s, 1950s, 1970s, 1990s and, just like Old Faithful, is growing early in the 2010s, according to data from the U.S. Census. It declined slightly in the other decades, including a loss of 2 percent from 2000 to 2010. Projections by economist George Fulton of the University of Michigan suggest that the pattern will continue with a 3.3 percent jump this decade. The reasons for such a trend are speculative, but Yoopers can hazard a guess.

Questions remain on mental health insurance coverage

By MICHAEL GERSTEIN
Capital News Service
LANSING – When new provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act take effect next year, a number of things could change, but don’t expect a clear answer as to what those changes will be. Insurers, health administrators and legislators are still trying to iron out details, and without a lot of consensus. One shift that’s supposed to extend to Michigan – on paper – is called mental health parity. Under the federal law, employers with fewer than 50 employees will have to cover psychological or psychiatric treatment in the same insurance package that covers physical care. Employers with more than 50 employees won’t have to do the same until 2017.

Jails, prisons struggle with mentally ill inmates

By MICHAEL GERSTEIN
Capital News Service
LANSING — It started slowly, when the Traverse City Regional Psychiatric Hospital shut its doors in the mid-1980s. Then in the 1990s, 10 more folded in rapid succession. And like the last teetering blocks in a long line of dominoes, Northville Regional Psychiatric Hospital fell in 2003 and the Mt. Pleasant Center in 2009. Now, the state continues to grapple with lasting effects of those closures.

Medicaid expansion would increase vets' health options

By MICHAEL GERSTEIN
Capital News Service
LANSING — While the Legislature wrestles with a recent House decision not to expand state health care for poor families through the Medicaid program, experts say roughly 20,000 veterans will also be left uninsured if the decision sticks. “They’re going to be left out in the cold,” said Jan Hudson, a health care policy analyst for the Michigan League for Public Policy, which does research and advocacy regarding social issues like poverty, education and health. The House recently rejected Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposal to expand Medicaid coverage despite available federal funding for the program. According to the league, veterans in rural areas would benefit the most from the expansion because they would be able to use local hospitals in addition to sometimes-distant VA clinics. The league says there are 19 rural counties with federal community-based health clinics for veterans, yet there are 57 rural counties with veterans.

Despite more grads, health care providers struggle to fill jobs

By CORTNEY ERNDT
Capital News Service
LANSING – Health care providers are having trouble hiring although undergraduate degrees in health fields have doubled over the past eight years at the state’s 15 public universities. In fact, there’s not only a strong demand for health professionals across the state, but nationally, said Michigan Health Council President Anne Rosewarne. “We are very sure that there is some shortage,” Rosewarne said. Although there are more than 4,000 health care bachelor degrees earned each year at Michigan’s public universities, qualified candidates remain in demand, Rosewarne said. “Competition isn’t an issue,” Rosewarne said, “Most human resource departments have a really, really hard time finding candidates.”
Tracey Burtch, a public affairs manager at the Michigan Health and Hospital Association said the industry employs more than 558,000 people in the state, but a large number of physicians and nurses are reaching retirement age.

Health care providers face stricter privacy requirements

By CORTNEY ERNDT
Capital News Service
LANSING – Stricter health privacy laws are leading to an increase in reported violations and better training of new physicians. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the number of health privacy cases investigated increased from 339 in 2003 to 3,898 in 2011.  About 70,259 health privacy complaints were resolved and 6,931 open complaints were made from April 14, 2003 to December 31, 2012. Michigan State Medical Society President John Bizon said, “Training for new physicians has been expanded compared to when I went to medical school before implementation of HIPPA,” the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Grand Valley State University graduate and Michigan State University first-year medical student Alex Brenner, of Shelbyville, said patient privacy rights were addressed at his orientation into medical school, at his care-facility job and at a research orientation at Spectrum Hospital. “Health privacy is taken very seriously,” Brenner said.

Higher insurance costs, weight loss programs loom for overweight workers

By CORTNEY ERNDT
Capital News Service
LANSING – Obese Michigan employees can expect higher insurance premiums and thus more incentive to join weight loss programs when the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed Obamacare, is fully effective in 2014. Department of Community Health public information officer Angela Minicuci said two-thirds of Michigan adults struggle with their weight. Of those, about 31 percent are obese. Obesity is medically defined by body mass index (BMI). A BMI of 30 or more is classified as obese.