WUOMFM

health care

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.

The debate over establishing and paying for a state-operated health insurance exchange has been pushed into next year.

Action on the exchange stalled as House and Senate Republicans continue to disagree on whether it would amount to an endorsement of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

House Republicans would prefer to wait until after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the federal law. Governor Rick Snyder says delay could force Michigan into a federal bureaucracy.

It appears a measure to forbid public employers from offering live-in and same-sex partner benefits will soon be on its way to Governor Rick Snyder.

The measure was adopted yesterday by the state Senate.

It would affect state and local governments, as well as school districts, and community colleges, but not public universities.

State Senator Rebekah Warren is a Democrat who voted against the measure. She says the ban would make it harder for Michigan’s public employers to compete for the best workers.

“Our best and most-successful companies have already figured out that by creating diverse workforces and making sure health insurance is provided for their employees, they get the best environment. We’re tying the hands of our local governments and public employers if we don’t give them the same tools,” said Warren.

Republicans say public employers that offer live-in partner benefits violate the intent of the voter-approved amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Working Moms Multitask, And Stress, More Than Dads

Dec 2, 2011

A new study in the December issue of the American Sociological Review comes up with some findings that lots of women may feel they already know too much about: Working mothers spend significantly more time multitasking at home than working dads. And those mothers aren't happy about it.

Spectrum Health

Spectrum Health is launching a new clinic in Grand Rapids to target people who visit its emergency rooms more than 10 times a year.

Doctor Corey Waller identified the problem while working in Spectrum Health's emergency rooms. The non-profit health system says there were 950 of these high-frequency visitors in 2008. That’s an average of 21 times per person. Combined, their visits cost at least $40 million a year.

Business owners are trying to figure out how the federal Affordable Care Act might play out in Michigan and how it could affect their bottom line.

Under the law, states are required to create an online exchange where people could compare and buy health care insurance. States need to create the exchange by the end of 2012 or the federal government will do it for them.

user rosefirerising / Flickr

The Michigan State Senate followed Governor Snyder's desire and passed a bill that, if adopted, would set up a statewide health care exchange. And the Tea Party is none too happy about the vote.

If state officials don't set up a statewide exchange by 2014, the state would have to enter a health care exchange system set up by the federal government.

The exchange, as political writer Susan Demas says, is like Travelocity for health care packages.

Demas wrote a piece on MLive about the Tea Party's reaction to the vote. She wrote that the activists warned Republicans "that there would be consequences for voting 'yes,'" and they accused Governor Snyder of trying to cozy up to the Obama administration.

Demas highlighted complaints from Scott Hagerstrom, the head of the free-market Americans for Prosperity of Michigan:

Hagerstrom called the passage of the health care exchange a "bribe" to get more federal dollars. 

"What they've done is basically declared war on the Tea Party and Tea Party activists," he declared. Joan Fabiano, a Tea Party activist from Holt who lobbied the Legislature against the health care exchange, also fired off a scathing statement against the Senate's action. 

She called it "a [sic] unnecessary set back [sic] in the freedom of Michigan citizens. . . . The hurried manner in which the bill was amended, passed through Committee and scheduled for a vote is an affront to every citizen of Michigan who was disenfranchised from having his or her vote heard. Voters will not forget this affront."

Senator Bruce Caswell (R-Hillsdale) might be on the Tea Party's list.

As Rick Pluta reported yesterday, Caswell was one of the Republicans arguing in favor of the exchange:

“I do not support putting this state in the position of having the federal government come in and basically take over regulation of health care,” said Caswell.

The state Senate has adopted a bill to create a statewide health coverage exchange where people and businesses could comparison shop for insurance.

Republicans were divided on the question, and whether a vote for it was an endorsement of the federal health reforms. 

Some Republicans argued they should take a principled stand against the federal law by refusing to enact any portion of it.

Others, such as Senator Bruce Caswell, argued the state should not risk being forced into a federal bureaucracy.

Without action, the state would be forced into a federal exchange system.

“I do not support putting this state in the position of having the federal government come in and basically take over regulation of health care,” said Caswell.

Caswell says Michigan can always shut down the exchange if the federal law is repealed or struck down.

Democrats, such as Senator Rebekah Warren, used the debate to defend the federal law.

“The solution that we have in front of us today guarantees that constituents in every one of our districts will have access to more affordable healthcare, so I urge my colleagues to please support this bipartisan compromise that’s in front of us now,” said Warren.

The measure now goes to the state House.

Republican Governor Rick Snyder says the statewide coverage exchange is a good idea with or without the federal mandate. He has asked the Legislature to send the bill to his desk before the end of the year.

screen grab from YouTube video

Officials from Toyota Motor Corporation say the company will start selling robots that help elderly and sick people. The Associated Press reports the company is "aiming for commercial products sometime after 2013."

From the Associated Press:

Toyota unveiled its ambitions for high-tech health care Tuesday, displaying experimental robots that the auto giant says can lift disabled patients from their hospital beds or help them walk.

The company aims to commercialize products such as its "independent walk assist" device sometime after 2013 – seeking to position itself in an industry with great potential in Japan, one of the world's most rapidly aging nations.

Prices and overseas sales plans are still undecided.

Several years ago, the company demonstrated a violin playing robot:

The 1.5-metre tall Violin-playing Robot, equipped with a total of 17 joints in each of its hands and arms, uses precise control and coordination to achieve human-like agility. It could also be used to assist with domestic duties or nursing and medical care.

Here's a video of Toyota's robot playing Pomp and Circumstance:

Pages