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health care

Obesity rates in the U.S. States in orange have obesity rates of 30 percent or more.
Trust for America's Health

According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America's Health, the states with the top five obesity rates are:

  1. Mississippi - 34.9 percent
  2. Louisiana - 33.4 percent
  3. West Virginia - 32.4 percent
  4. Alabama - 32.0 percent
  5. Michigan - 31.3 percent

The rates reflect the percent of the population with a body mass index of 30 or higher. Body mass index is a calculation based on weight and height ratios. You can find your body mass index here.

The rates in the report were based on CDC data (part of the 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey).

The top five "skinniest" states?

  1. Colorado - 20.7 percent
  2. Hawaii - 21.8 percent
  3. Massachusetts 22.7 percent
  4. New Jersey 23.7 percent
  5. California - 23.8 percent

From the group's issue brief:

 “Obesity has contributed to a stunning rise in chronic disease rates and health care costs. It is one of the biggest health crises the country has ever faced,” said Jeffrey Levi, PhD, TFAH executive director. “The good news is that we have a growing body of evidence and approaches that we know can help reduce obesity, improve nutrition and increase physical activity based on making healthier choices easier for Americans. The bad news is we’re not investing anywhere near what we need to in order to bend the obesity curve and see the returns in terms of health and savings.”

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder gave a policy speech last fall about the state's struggle with obesity saying "too many Michiganders smoke, are overweight, and don’t exercise." In that speech he called Michigan's health care system "broken." He also set a personal weight reduction goal for himself in the speech - something he's still working on.

Last year the state ranked 10th in the nation in obesity. The Trust for America's Health notes year to year comparisons are difficult because of changes in the CDC's methodology.

MichigaMichigan Gov. Rick Snyder at a Univ. of Michigan basketball game.n Gov. Snyder gets cagey on subject of weight loss.
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For a Governor who creates online "dashboards" to measure goals he has set for the state, he gets a little evasive when it comes to one of his goals.

Last fall, Mr. Snyder called Michigan's system of health care "a broken system."

He said too many people in the state smoke, are overweight, and don't exercise.

To set a good example, Snyder said his goal was to lose 10 pounds by the end of the year.

Some time has passed since that speech, but I thought we should check in on the goal. Michigan Radio reporter Lindsey Smith sat down with Governor Snyder yesterday and put the question to him.

Here's his answer:

"I've lost some, but not enough," said Snyder. When Smith pushed for "poundage," Snyder wouldn't give it up.

It looks like his weight goal has gone the same way as another goal he set for the state in that speech last fall. He asked the legislature to set up a state health care exchange under the federal health care law: so far, this goal is out of his control.

The University of Michigan Health System
The University of Michigan

U.S. News & World Report has identified 34 high-performing hospitals in Michigan out of more than 175 hospitals statewide. The rankings were released earlier this week.

Regional rankings around the country are based on how hospitals compare nationally in 16 medical specialties.

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.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Senate is expected to vote on legislation that would end state-provided health care coverage in retirement for new public school hires and require current employees to pay more toward pensions.

The Wednesday legislative session is the only one scheduled for July. The Senate is expected to take up the bill passed last month by the House.

The bill doesn't contain earlier language that would force new teachers into a 401 (k)-style plan. The measure calls for studying how ending the pensions would affect the state.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and his fellow Republicans could find themselves knee-deep in health care issues Wednesday when lawmakers briefly return after a five-week break.

Snyder needs to get reluctant House Republicans on board with his efforts to create an online site where individuals and small businesses can comparison shop for private health insurance.

billschuette.com

On the heels of the Supreme Court decision upholding the majority of the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act, U.S. House Republicans are poised to vote to repeal it. But the effort is largely symbolic.

According to the Associated Press, the White House says the repeal would cost millions of American families the security of affordable health coverage and that President Obama would veto a repeal.

Last night I was thinking of a moment in American history not that long ago, when a newly elected conservative Republican President had to choose a new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

The president was neither a scholar, a lawyer, nor an intellectual, and his choice filled the legal community with dismay. He picked a former governor and failed vice presidential candidate who had never served a day as a judge.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Several hundred people gathered at the state capitol today to protest the Obama Administration’s push to make all employer-provided health care plans carry contraception coverage.    Similar rallies took place in Detroit, Flint, Ann Arbor and other Michigan cities.

The Catholic Church is a main opponent of the contraception mandate. Church leaders held rallies across the country today.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Retired lawmakers would pay the same 20 percent of their health care premiums that other public retirees are being asked to pay under legislation passed by the Michigan House.

Hamed Saber / Flickr

A new study sheds some light on how health care providers can better meet the cultural needs of American Muslim patients.

Michigan is home to one of the largest Muslim communities in the U.S.  Some Muslim patients report that they experience discrimination in health care settings.

Researchers from the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan interviewed groups of Muslim men and women from different backgrounds attending mosques in Metro Detroit.  

Sylvar / flickr

Michigan ranks tenth in the country, when it comes to the number of people who are overweight or obese. It's an issue that affects many of us personally, and it affects society as a whole.

A new HBO, documentary series called  The Weight of the Nation takes an in-depth look at this epidemic. It's in partnership with the Center for Disease Control & Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.

John Hoffman is an HBO producer who worked on the documentary. The documentary recently screened in Detroit. He says, "We’ve got to engage the entire nation in addressing obesity. Almost 70% of adults and a third of children are overweight or obese, and the costs are just going to bankrupt our health care system. Our national security is threatened when one quarter of recruits can’t qualify for our military service because they are overweight or obese…so, we are trying to sound the loudest possibly alarm in every community that this has got to become a priority."

Obesity seems to hit minorities and poor people especially hard. Hoffman says it's a matter of economics and not race. 

Nobody would dispute that health care is one of the biggest issues facing this nation. And virtually everyone, regardless of their politics, is waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Next month, the nation’s highest court will announce its decision on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Congress passed two years ago.

Their decision will have a major impact on this nation. But in Ferndale, a small, charming, quirky, and largely working class Detroit suburb, a tiny group hasn’t been waiting.

State Senator Rick Jones of Grand Ledge might want to watch his back for the next few weeks, or maybe, decades. Yesterday, he threatened to violate a time-honored legislative custom.

Lawmakers at all levels are traditionally known for telling the people “do what we say, not what we do.”

wikimedia commons

10 community health centers in Michigan will get $19.6 million in federal funds.

Those health centers are key primary care providers for uninsured and underinsured people in many communities.

The money is part of about $11 billion provided to community health clinics through the national health care reform law.

Cheyboygan Memorial Hospital

CHEBOYGAN, Mich. (AP) - A spokesman for McLaren Health Care Corp. says the health care system has to go before a bankruptcy court judge before it can reopen the emergency room and most outpatient services at Cheboygan Memorial Hospital in northern Michigan.

Kevin Tompkins said Tuesday that Flint-based McLaren has reached an agreement with the U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services - a first step in reopening portions of Cheboygan Memorial.

McLaren could go before the bankruptcy court next week. If approved, the reopening process and hiring of staff will start immediately.

The hospital closed unexpectedly April 3 after a sale to McLaren fell through. The Michigan Nurses Association said Monday night that McLaren has formed a partnership with Northern Michigan Hospital in Petoskey to obtain tentative federal approval.

Dave Hogg / Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he's at least 80 percent healed from major surgery and plans to return to city hall on April 30.

Bing had surgery for a perforated intestine in late March and then returned to the hospital on April 4 because of blood clots in his lungs. His health problems occurred while the city and the state of Michigan were working on an extraordinary deal to fix Detroit's finances.

The 68-year-old mayor said during a conference call Friday the only thing holding him back is the healing of his incision. Bing says he lost 12 pounds because of restrictions on what he could eat.

A deal between Detroit and the state calls for a chief financial officer, a program manager and a nine-member board to oversee spending.

Time is running out for Governor Snyder to decide if he’ll sign a major change to Michigan’s motorcycle helmet law.

The governor has until Monday to decide if he will OK the change which would allow riders over 21 to ride without a helmet for the first time since the 1970’s.

Rusty Bongard is the spokesman for ABATE, a group of Michigan bikers who have  been lobbying for the helmet law’s repeal.   He says they’re not just waiting to see if the governor will sign the helmet bill into law.

Living with autism

Apr 11, 2012
Photos courtesy of Nicole Bouchard.

This week we’ve been talking about autism, what we know about it, and how autism coverage is changing in Michigan.

Twenty-two-year-old twin sisters Michelle and Nicole Bouchard both have Asperger’s syndrome. It’s commonly thought to be at the milder end of the autism spectrum.  

Michelle says school wasn't easy. "There was a list of things they told me I couldn't do. I couldn't go to college, I couldn't find a job...it was a big struggle for me," she says.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Teachers turned out by the hundreds in Lansing to oppose legislation that would force them to pay more for their pensions and retirement health care, or have their benefits reduced.

Some of them protested outside a state Senate committee hearing today on the legislation.

One of them was Pinckney teacher Sam Ziegler. He says the measure would break a promise to his profession.

"I knew I wasn't going to be a millionaire teaching," Ziegler said. "But it was something that was worthwhile that benefited others and myself, and I was told that I'd have a pension to go to and now it’s just slowly eroding and I see the danger that it will keep eroding away."

But some Republicans like state Senator Patrick Colbeck says the public school employee pension fund has liabilities so big the system could go insolvent if nothing is done. 

"Somebody’s got to pay for that eventually, later and right now that’s being pushed off because – if we’re talking about dealing with unfunded liabilities – being pushed off to the same kids that we're working hard to educate right now," said Colbeck.

Teachers say state government has increased the stress on the system with budget cuts that reduce districts capacity to pay into it, and forced layoffs that mean fewer people paying into the system.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder has signed legislation aimed at making sure union dues aren't collected from certain home health care workers.

The bill that the Republican governor announced signing Tuesday would exclude those who receive a government subsidy for private employment from the definition of a public employee.

Snyder said the legislation clarifies Michigan law to its original intent.

Republicans who control the Michigan Legislature have been critical of what they consider stealth, unilaterally imposed union dues collection from those who serve as care providers through a program called the Michigan Quality Community Care Council.

Unions are attempting to counteract the legislation through a ballot campaign aimed at getting features of the program enshrined in the state constitution.

They'd have to collect nearly 323,000 voter signatures to make the November ballot.

Cheyboygan Memorial Hospital

The Cheboygan Memorial Hospital (CMH) is closing today leaving 300 employees without a job.

From the  Cheboygan News:

“With this closure, we will have to close our emergency room,”said Shari Schult, Chief Executive Officer of CMH. “We will need to coordinate with area EMS services and local law enforcement to divert all ambulances to the most appropriate hospital. This closure also means all of our other services are closed, including outpatient clinics, x-ray, lab, cardiac rehab and physical therapy. “It also means all of our employees are without a job,” she added.

9 & 10 News reports the hospital had filed for bankruptcy on March 1.

In an announcement, CMH officials said today's closing came after a proposed sale to McLaren Health Care fell through.

The long-awaited proposed sale of CMH to McLaren Health Care was set to be finalized today. But now, federal regulations are causing it to come to a halt. CMH officials say the problem is with recertification and licensure under Medicare. And now, the organization is running out of money. CMH is only authorized and budgeted to operate as an organization through April 3rd, today, which is the day the proposed sale agreement was to be finalized.

More than two hundred people gathered today in front of Ann Arbor's Federal Building. They were protesting a recent federal mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services that requires all employer healthcare plans to provide contraceptive services.

Seven similar rallies were also held in Michigan, along with more than 100 others across the country organized by Catholic pro-life groups.

Christen Houck is a student at the University of Michigan.

"This mandate is unconstitutional based on the fact that it goes against people's religious consciences," she says. "That's something that we really need to protect. I do not think this is an issue about contraception, but it's really about religious freedom."

Twenty-eight states, including Michigan, already require coverage of contraceptives in employer healthcare plans. Michigan’s law includes a broad religious exemption.

-Alex Markel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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.

Cedar Bend Drive / Flickr

A legislative subcommittee has scheduled a hearing for later this month on Michigan State University’s new policy that this year’s freshmen carry health insurance. Students that don’t have coverage will be enrolled in a university plan.

State Representative Bob Genetski chairs the House higher education budget subcommittee. He says the Michigan State rule sounds a little too close for his comfort to the federal health care law, and its mandate that everyone has to have insurance.  

“If MSU is mandating that students buy health insurance, it’s definitely something to look into. It sounds like the early onset of Obamacare and I don’t know that that’s their right to put it in.”

Genetski says the policy should wait until there’s a Supreme Court ruling on the federal health insurance mandate.

In published reports, MSU officials say mandatory coverage makes sense because it encourages students to get health care when they need it. They say a sickness can quickly sweep across campus when students forego a visit to the doctor.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Nearly 50,000 state workers are getting refunds on the 3 percent they've been paying for a year toward retiree health care costs.

State budget director John Nixon estimates a worker making $50,000 a year will get back about $1,500.

Gov. Rick Snyder signed bills last month agreeing to refund the money after courts ruled the fee unconstitutional. The money was being returned Thursday.

Workers can choose to receive the refunds in their paychecks or as a deposit into their 401(k) or 457 retirement accounts.

A similar 3 percent contribution being paid by teachers toward their retiree health care costs is not being refunded.

State employee unions had contested the fee, saying only the Civil Service Commission could impose it. Unionized and nonunionized workers will receive the refund.

SNRE

The University of Michigan's President, Mary Sue Coleman, reacted to Governor Snyder's signature on a piece of legislation that denies health benefits to live-in partners of some public employees.

Governor Snyder said the legislation does not apply to public universities, but some in Michigan's legislature disagree with him.

Here's the letter from Mary Sue Coleman:

To our campus community:

Yesterday Governor Snyder signed legislation that prevents some public employers from offering medical benefits to the domestic partners of public employees, but in doing so he said that university employees are exempt. Based on our analysis, as well as the governor's regarding the state universities' constitutional autonomy, we believe we may continue to provide benefits to other qualified adults in full compliance with the law and will do so.

Update 4:43 p.m.

Governor Rick Snyder has approved a ban on health benefits that cover the live-in partners of many public employees in Michigan.

The governor says the ban will not apply to the partners of state civil service workers and people employed by public universities.

In a letter to the Legislature, the governor says the law cannot violate the independence of the state Civil Service Commission and public universities. Both are autonomous under the Michigan Constitution.

But Republicans in the Legislature say the law applies to all public employees, and not just people who work for school districts and local governments.

Republicans like state Representative Dave Agema say live-in partner benefits are a way to circumvent Michigan’s voter-approved amendment outlawing same-sex marriage and civil unions:

“All I ask is, if you really want this, do another referendum. Bring it before the people. See what kind of probability you will get there. I will tell you right now, they will never pass that,” says Agema.

The American Civil Liberties Union says it will be in court soon to challenge the new law.

3:44 p.m.

Governor Rick Snyder has approved a measure to ban taxpayer-funded health benefits for the unmarried live-in partners of most public employees in Michigan. The governor sent a letter to the Legislature saying he signed the bill with the understanding that it does not apply to employees of public universities.

Stethoscope
Adrian Clark / Flickr

Under a new law in Michigan, everyone who files a claim for a treatment or a checkup will pay a one percent tax to help fund Medicaid. The tax does not apply to co-pays or deductibles.

The new law got rid of a 6 percent use tax on Medicaid managed care organizations.

Governor Rick Snyder pushed for the one percent tax on health insurance claims to maintain medical coverage for low-income patients.

The tax was unpopular with fellow Republicans, but as the Michigan Public Radio Network Rick Pluta reported, Snyder said "he was committed to not rolling back health coverage for the poor during tough economic times."

He signed the tax into law last September.

Now the law is being challenged in court. From the Associated Press:

The Self-Insurance Institute of America Inc. filed a suit challenging the law Thursday in federal court. The suit says the Michigan assessment is pre-empted by federal law.

The suit seeks to block the assessment related to self-insured group health plans.

The Michigan assessment is scheduled to begin Jan. 1 to help fund Medicaid programs. It would be paid to the state by insurers or HMOs.

It's expected to raise about $400 million a year, helping the state draw roughly $800 million in federal funds for Medicaid.

The AP left a message seeking comment from Governor Snyder's office.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder has signed two bills that will affect some state workers' retiree health care benefits and reduce the future amount the state needs to fund by $5.6 billion.

Workers hired after Jan. 1 won't get state health care coverage when they retire, although they'll get an extra 2 percent match in their 401(k) or 457 retirement plans while working to help them save for future health care costs.

The legislation signed Thursday also refunds the 3 percent contribution toward retiree health care that state workers have been paying for more than a year.

The refunds go out Jan. 19. Workers can choose to receive the money in their paychecks or as a deposit into their retirement accounts. A worker making $50,000 a year should get about $1,500 back.

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