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. Most e people who skip doctor visits because of cost have no health insurance (30 percent) or are on the Healthy Michigan plan (27.9 percent), according to statistics provided by Jennifer Eisner, a public information officer at the department.

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.

Number of uninsured Michigan residents drops

By SIERRA RESOVSKY
Capital News Service
LANSING— Although Michigan isn’t one of the top five states to see a decrease in the number of residents without health insurance, the number without insurance continued to decline last year, according to data released by the Census Bureau. In 2013, 11 percent of residents were uninsured, especially those living in rural areas, compared to 2014 when only 8.5 percent lacked coverage. Of the top five counties with the most significant decline, Van Buren County showed the biggest difference. 15.6 percent of its residents were uninsured in 2013, compared to 8.9 percent in 2014. “Most county residents work for small employers or in agriculture and previously weren’t able to receive Medicaid, but now can through the Healthy Michigan Plan,” David Waymire, a representative of the Michigan Association of Health Plans, said.

Obamacare is struggling to win people over

By: Halie Woody
Grand Ledge Gazette staff writer
GRAND LEDGE- An array of difficulties have emerged for those who are in the process of, or have already signed up for Obamacare. From technical difficulties to the decrease in coverage, Obamacares success could be in jeopardy. Those who have not signed up for coverage will face a penalty fine of $95 per adult or 1 percent of household income whichever one is greater, according to The Los Angeles Times. “It’s an absolute disaster,” said Darren Musolff, an independent health insurance salesman. “People don’t have the time to figure out how to work through the website.”

In addition to the technical problems on the website the plan itself is proving to be a recipe for disaster according to Musolff.

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.

More Michiganders lack employers health insurance benefits

By CELESTE BOTT
Capital News Service
LANSING – Michigan has suffered a greater decline in employer-based health insurance than any other state, according to new Census data, and hospitals, public health agencies and free clinics are seeking ways to compensate. The report showed that only 61.5 percent of the state’s population received employer-sponsored health care benefits in 2011, a notable reduction from 76.9 percent in 2001. Southeast Michigan is the region with the most uninsured residents, but counties in the northern and northwestern parts of the state have the greatest proportions of their populations dependent on Medicaid, according to the Michigan Health and Hospital Association. A number of factors contributed to the decline, including increased poverty and unemployment, an aging population and the loss or reduction of benefits from part-time employers, according to experts. The Michigan League for Human Services says that policymakers are also to blame.

Federal health law may cost small businesses

By XINJUAN DENG
Capital News Service
LANSING – Some small businesses say they will be hurt by a “hidden” tax under the two-year-old federal health overhaul. U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, said the act provides $40 billion in tax credits during the next decade to help small businesses pay health insurance premiums.
The law lowers the cost of health care, Peters said, which saves small businesses money. However, some small business people disagree. Scott Lyon, vice president for small business services at the Small Business Association of Michigan, said the federal law is becoming a problem for small businesses. “The problem is the cost: the act is doing very little to stabilize the lower cost of insurance,” Lyon said.

State lawmakers scramble to approve website to encourage health insurance competition

By SHANNAN O’NEIL
Capital News Service
LANSING- Buying health insurance in Michigan next year could be a lot like buying vacation packages on travel websites. To comply with federal law, Sen. Jim Marleau, R-Lake Orion, introduced a bill to create MiHealth Marketplace. It’s a website that compares health insurance packages and prices for people or businesses. A consumer could weigh options and compare the prices of multiple health care providers. The hope is to create competition and lower the cost of health insurance, Marleau said.

State asks to delay health insurance rebate

By JACOB KANCLERZ
Capital News Service
LANSING – Michigan residents will lose $53 million in potential health insurance rebates that instead will go to insurance companies if the state gains permission to let them do so. It could also mean higher premiums for individuals, said advocates with the Michigan Consumers for Health Care. But state regulators say the move is necessary to protect the health insurance market and to keep insurers from leaving Michigan. Starting this year, insurers must devote 80 percent of premiums directly to a customer’s health care under the health care reform passed by Congress in 2009. The other 20 percent is kept by the company.