doctors

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It takes a lot of heavy lifting to become a physician, a nurse, a dietician or other health-care professional. Long years of coursework and clinical training leave little room to learn other important skills – the kind of skills that can make a health professional an important player in the public policy sphere and prepared to tackle some of our most urgent environmental health challenges.

That's why the Ecology Center is offering a new fellowship program that can train health professionals about effective civic engagement and environmental health risks.

Listen to the full piece above.

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Cost comparison – it can be an effective way of saving money. Whether it's comparing the price of a cup of coffee – Starbucks versus Tim Horton's, for instance – or comparing gas prices in different parts of the city or state, checking out cost differences is, for many, just part of a regular day.

But what about comparing medical costs? Would you have any idea what, say, a hip replacement might cost at the hospital you go to?

If you could tease out those prices and compare them, you might find yourself wondering: Why do some hospitals in the same city or state charge thousands of dollars more for the same procedure? And why is it so tough to get those prices?

Those are the questions Ilene Wolff, a writer with DBusiness, explored in a recent story.

To compare prices of services at different hospitals, visit healthcarebluebook.comTo look up hospital quality information, visit hospitalcompare.hhs.gov.

Listen to the full interview above. 

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  More than a dozen insurance companies want to be part of a health care exchange that provides coverage to Michiganders under the new federal health care law.

Blue Cross Blue Shield, Humana, McLaren, United Healthcare and ten other insurance companies have applied to be part of the new health care exchange.

Beginning in October, Michiganders will be able to use a federally run exchange to compare the health care plans.  It’s all part of the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare," which takes effect in 2014.

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A federal grant will put more primary care providers in medically-underserved areas of southeast Michigan.

The $21 million grant will help train medical residents in five federally-qualified health centers.

The program is a partnership between Michigan State University’s medical school and the Detroit-Wayne County Health Authority.

Chris Allen is CEO of the Health Authority. He says it will add much-needed primary care doctors to the medical safety net.

“And it ultimately will provide medical homes for the people who live in these areas, and thus not a reliance on the emergency room for their care," he said.

Allen says residents who participate in the program will be eligible for medical school loan forgiveness.

The plan is to train 85 residents over three years, starting next summer. Allen says after learning the practice in southeast Michigan residencies, the new doctors will stay in the area.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A hearing is scheduled in Lansing on Wednesday on a package of bills that would prevent some patients from suing doctors for malpractice.

The hearing is 8 a.m. before the state Senate Insurance Committee in Lansing.

Leaders of the 16,000-member Michigan State Medical Society say the Patients First Reform Package closes a legal loophole that allows unnecessary suits to be filed and prevents trial lawyers from artificially inflating awards.

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Several major changes to Michigan's medical malpractice laws will be discussed in a state senate committee tomorrow.

The “Patients First Reform Package” would make it harder to successfully sue a doctor for malpractice and potentially reduce jury awards.

Doctors are already required to send immunization records to the State of Michigan. With the new system, the data will arrive in real time with no extra steps for the doctors or hospitals.

The system was launched by a non-profit called Michigan Health Connect. Executive Director Doug Dietzman says eventually the data could travel both ways – so doctors could avoid giving patients shots they don’t need. He outline tetanus as a common example. 

Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear legal arguments over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The federal health care law has come under fire for a variety of reasons, including changes to the way Americans will get their health care.

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Some state lawmakers say they have not given up on efforts to restore money in the state budget for training medical residents at Michigan hospitals.

The Legislature dropped $9 million in medical training funds from an end-of-the-year budget bill before adjourning for the year.

But Republican state Senator Roger Kahn says he will make a renewed effort to fund the program in 2012. Kahn is a also doctor and chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee. Kahn says the funding helps keep doctors in Michigan, which faces a physician shortage.

"We’ve got to have a new generation of physicians and those physicians, when they’re trained here, have a much-higher likelihood of staying here in Michigan and becoming Michigan physicians," he said

The most recent annual survey of physicians conducted by the state Department of Community Health found 60 percent of doctors stay and practice close to the hospitals where they trained as residents.

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Classes start today at the new, privately funded Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine in southeast Michigan. It's the first of three new medical schools expected to come online in the next few years.

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Governor Rick Snyder has signed a law that protects doctors from lawsuits if they express sympathy for the death of a patient.

Snyder says health care providers are often prohibited from saying “I’m sorry” when a medical procedure fails because it can be considered an admission of guilt in court.

Snyder said the new law will allow doctors to be more supportive, "and the opportunity for health care professionals to have a dialogue with families that have had some traumatic experiences," said Snyder. "So it’s great to have an opportunity to have that be done in a safe and thoughtful fashion so people can have good communication and good dialogue."

Snyder says studies show that when a doctor is allowed to say “I’m sorry,” people who are grieving are better able to heal.

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with Joe Schwarz, one of the best-informed, multi-talented men in public life in this state. After a stint as mayor of his native Battle Creek, Schwarz spent sixteen years in the state senate, where he was immensely knowledgeable on education policy and finance.

That was, of course, back in the era before term limits. Schwarz is also one of those people whose resume could fill a box. He’s also had a career in the U.S. Navy, and as a spy in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. He ran for governor once and congress twice, finally winning a single term in 2004.

Schwarz’s problem was never the general election. Every time he got to one of those, he won easily. But he had trouble in  Republican primaries. He is a fiscal conservative and a military hawk, but also believes in funding education, and that abortion should be “legal, safe and rare.” Nor does he always suffer fools gladly.

By the way, I didn’t mention his day job. He is an otolaryngologist, which we civilians call an ear, nose and throat surgeon, and is still happily practicing medicine. 

That is, when he isn’t teaching at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Schwarz understands health care issues, and I was curious about our medical school explosion.

The U of M has a medical school; Wayne State has one; Michigan State has two; Oakland University and Beaumont Hospital have started one, and Western Michigan is now starting one.

Is that too many? Will we be producing too many doctors?

That’s a good question, the good doctor told me, but not the most important one. When all these medical schools are up and running, they’ll be producing something like six hundred and ninety doctors a year, trained largely at state expense.