healthcare

Screen shot from healthcare.gov

President Obama said that glitches in the healthcare.gov website would be fixed by November 30. Now that that deadline has passed, we wanted to check back in to see how the website was running.

I tried to apply for coverage on October 1, the day the marketplace opened, which didn't work

Though I checked back several times in the last two months, there were still a lot of glitches. I tried accessing my old application yesterday, and still there were problems. The website hung when I was trying to choose the amount of tax credit I apply toward my coverage.

Let's start over, shall we?

NPR reported that a lot of people who weren't able to shop for coverage are now able to because of a "reset button."

Earlier this week we hosted an Issues & Ale event on the Affordable Care Act, and almost 150 people attended.

For everyone who was not able to attend, here are some of the main takeaways from the panel discussion with Marianne Udow-Phillips, the Director of the Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation, Don Hazaert, the Director of Michigan Consumers for Healthcare, and Melissa Anders, a statewide business reporter with the MLive media group in Lansing.

What should people understand about the Affordable Care Act?

People should understand first of all that the Affordable Care Act is not a website, nor is it a "catchall for everyone's anxieties about health care," according to Hazaert, as many people have concerns about health care that have nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act. It is a law.

“This law is a law that is, in some ways, an incremental change to health care. It’s building on the existing non-system,” said Udow-Phillips. “We have a complicated and convoluted current system of health care, the law doesn’t fix that.”

Instead, it is designed to fill in the gaps, not fix it. Under the Affordable Care Act, more people will get coverage, but there will be people who end up paying more.

Also, do not wait until the website is fixed to start thinking about health care.

“There’s lots of information out there right now to help you understand what your choices are,” said Anders. “You actually can go on the website . . . and click on a link that will show you what the plans are in Washtenaw County, or wherever you’re from, and will tell you what the prices are and what you might be eligible for.”

The health plans themselves also have good websites that allow you to compare information.

Can you keep your current health care if you like it?

There has been a lot of confusion over this. Ultimately, it is up to your state insurance commissioner to decide how to implement the policy change. In Michigan, we are still waiting to hear back from our state insurance commissioner about this.

It is also up to the insurance companies. So even if the commissioner approves, individual insurance companies can still decide whether or not to extend their plans.

People on Medicare will see no change under the Affordable Care Act. Employer plans will also stay mostly the same.

The big changes will be in the individual market.

“People are paying an enormous amount right now for very bad coverage, and people are very unhappy,” said Udow-Phillips. “We did a survey last year of citizens in Michigan, and people who had coverage that they bought themselves through the individual market, 44% of them said they were happy with their coverage.”

That is lower than people with any other type of health care. Under the Affordable Care Act, more people in the individual market will get better coverage for less.

Who still won't be covered?

Undocumented immigrants will not be receiving any coverage under this law. In fact, they were purposely excluded.

Additionally, people who are exempt from penalties may not have insurance, or people may choose to pay the penalties rather than get insurance.

There are a number of other circumstances which allow for exemptions. People who cannot afford insurance, people in prison, and people who cannot have health care due to their religious beliefs will be eligible for waivers.

To hear the full discussion and the Q & A session that followed, click the audio above.

Patricia Drury / Flickr

To call Detroit’s legacy costs underfunded would be, well, an understatement.

According to the city’s numbers, Detroit’s pension and retiree healthcare funds are about $9.2 billion short.

But Detroit is not the only Michigan city with major legacy costs — not by a long shot.

Legacy costs, or costs undertaken by local government for future use, have been taken on by more than 280 of Michigan’s 1,800 communities, according to data compiled by Bridge Magazine.

And while Detroit has the highest amount of total unfunded legacy cost, the per capita numbers show a slightly different picture.

use: dougwoods / Flickr

Yesterday, the Department of Heath and Human Services released a detailed enrollment report on the number of people who looked for insurance coverage from October 1 to November 2.

The number of people who enrolled in coverage is low.

According to the report, 23,987 applications were completed in Michigan. Of those completed applications, only 1,329 enrolled in a plan.

What's the difference between 'completed application' and 'enrollment?'

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

More than 436,000 Michigan residents will qualify for tax subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, according to a report released today from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

According to the study, 17 million Americans are eligible for tax credits that will lower their cost of coverage.

Most of those eligible folks come from states with high populations: Texas, for instance, is estimated to have over 2 million residents who would qualify for subsidies.

California’s not far behind with $1.9 million.

Michigan is home to five national parks and there are lots of open spaces where you can camp, hunt and enjoy nature. But, yesterday, an Oklahoma Senator recently said two Michigan landmarks are a prime example of wasteful federal spending. We found out what’s behind the senator’s reasoning and whether there is some truth to his concerns.

 Then, we took a look at a new proposal by a group of Democrats in the Michigan House that would require the state to determine the actual cost of educating a public school student in Michigan. That got us thinking, shouldn't we already know?  We also spoke with Michigan writer Donald Lystra about his new collection of short stories. And, Ann Arbor now has its own Death Café, organized by funeral home guide Merilynne Rush. She stopped by to tell us more about it. But, first on the show, ever since the government unveiled its healthcare.gov website, the headlines surrounding the Affordable Care Act have been about the problems with the way the site was designed and the extreme difficulty Americans have had in getting on the exchange. But what about the Americans that don't need healthcare.gov? The ones who already have plans? To those consumers, President Obama has been saying this since 2009:

“If you like your current insurance, you will keep your current insurance. No government takeover, nobody’s changing what you’ve got if you’re happy with it.”

So why, then, then are some 2 million Americans - about 140,000 in Michigan - getting cancelation letters from their insurers over the past couple of weeks?

Marianne Udow-Phillips directs the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation, a non-profit partnership between the University of Michigan and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan. She joined us today.

user mudowp / Twitter

Ever since the government unveiled its healthcare.gov website, the headlines surrounding the Affordable Care Act have been about the problems with the way the site was designed and the extreme difficulty Americans have had in getting on the exchange to shop for health insurance.

But, what about the Americans that don't need healthcare.gov? The ones who already have plans? Some 14 million consumers buy their own insurance individually.

And to those consumers, President Obama has been saying this since 2009:

“If you like your current insurance, you will keep your current insurance. No government takeover, nobody’s changing what you’ve got if you’re happy with it.”

So why, then, are some 2 million Americans - about 140,000 in Michigan - getting cancelation letters from their insurers?

Marianne Udow-Phillips directs the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation, a non-profit partnership between the University of Michigan and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan. She joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

DETROIT (AP) - Changes in federal and state health care laws have created huge growth for Michigan's largest Medicaid HMO.

The Detroit News reports that growth at Meridian Health Plan is also benefiting Detroit and Grosse Pointe Park because of developments financed by the family that runs Meridian.

Jon Cotton is chief operating officer of Meridian Health Plan. It was founded as Health Plan of Michigan in 1997 by his parents, David and Shery Cotton.

He says the changes in health care are creating opportunities that won't be seen for another century.

photo by Anna Strumillo Phuket - Thailand / www.fotopedia.com

The state and federal healthcare exchanges are, of course, a big chapter in the overhaul of the American healthcare model - a model that's very different from many other countries around the world.

The BBC's Alice Castle has lived in the U.S. and the United Kingdom. She's had the experience of being pregnant in both countries.

Click the audio above to listen to her unique perspective on the American healthcare system.

Something good happened yesterday, something smart and rational that will help improve people’s lives. This was not typical of the day, mind you. Actually, yesterday was a day of supreme irrationality in federal, state and local government.

Nationally, the government shutdown continued, with Republicans vowing to take the nation over a cliff unless Democrats agree to defund the Affordable Care Act. This happened on the same day that millions rushed to sign up for health insurance plans.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Shutdown could cost Michigan $18 million a day

"Michigan’s budget chief says the federal shutdown could cost the state $18 million dollars a day in lost funding. Budget Director John Nixon says he does not expect that to happen unless the shutdown lasts more than two weeks. He says, after that, pre-funding for some big programs will run out," Rick Pluta reports.

Delays in Medicaid sign up

"The Michigan Department of Community Health is still working to start early enrollment to help people sign up for Michigan's expanded Medicaid program. Michigan's Medicaid expansion also still needs to be approved by the federal government. That means hundreds of thousands of low-wage Michiganders could have to wait weeks or months to enroll," Jake Neher reports

The state to take over Detroit's Belle Isle

"The state of Michigan has signed a deal to lease Detroit’s Belle Isle. Governor Snyder and emergency manager Kevyn Orr have both approved the 30-year plan. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources will run Belle Isle as a state park, saving Detroit an estimated $4 million a year in maintenance costs," Sarah Cwiek reports.

A former student who shares my appreciation of history told me last night that he had found one high-ranking Republican who would have opposed the government shutdown. That gentleman, who once made a famous speech in Kalamazoo, told fellow Republicans in New York “I see that some, at least, of you are those who believe that an election being decided against them is no reason why they should sink the ship.“

That’s a good and reasonable philosophy of government. Unfortunately, the man who said that, himself a former Congressman, is Abraham Lincoln, and he happens to be dead. Lincoln said those words while struggling to save the nation from breaking apart just before his first inauguration. The fault was with Democrats then.

To an increasing number of people, the shutdown of the federal government today is the fault of the Republicans. To me, the nature of what is happening ought to be pretty frightening regardless of who is to blame.

Republicans in Congress are saying they won’t allow the government to be funded unless the President and Congress agree to stop the Affordable Care Act from taking effect this year.

Courtesy of Children First

Michigan's new healthcare exchange goes live next Tuesday (October 1), and the White House put out a sneek peak of sorts.

It’s a snapshot of prices Michiganders could pay for what are expected to be some of the most popular plans.

In terms of cost, Michigan is projected to be below the national average.

The Detroit Tigers won their division championship last night, and there’s good news for Democrats in that. This year, they can root for the team to win the World Series. Last year, that wasn’t the case.

You see, there’s an odd quirky way in which baseball correlates to national elections. When the American League wins the World Series, that‘s generally good news for the Republicans. National League wins; good for the Democrats.

Detroit‘s last two World Series triumphs came in 1968 and 1984, years when the GOP won presidential elections. The Tigers lost the World Series seven years ago, and less than a month later Democrats recaptured Congress. When the Tigers were humiliated in last year‘s series, we knew it meant curtains for Mitt Romney.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Michigan will pay less than average for health insurance

"The Obama administration says Michigan residents required to shop for health insurance starting next week will pay an average $306 a month - before tax credits - for a mid-range benchmark plan. That's below the national average of $328 and ranks 29th-lowest out of 47 states for which data was available," the Associated Press reports.

Wayne State University to offer in-state tutition for undocumented students

"Wayne State University will begin offering in-state tuition to undocumented students. The decision came as part of a policy change that ties tuition to students' high school diplomas, instead of their residency status," Michigan Radio reports.

Snyder not running yet, but his campaign ads are

"The first campaign ad in the race for Michigan governor will start airing today. Governor Rick Snyder is launching his ad campaign before he’s formally announced he’s a candidate," Rick Pluta reports.

http://www.commonwealthfund.org/

A brand-new report card has been released from the bipartisan Commonwealth Fund.

The report examines just how well the health care systems in each of the 50 states are working. The conclusion: if you live in a state that generally does poorly in health care, it doesn't necessarily matter what your income level is. High-income people who live in these poorly-performing states are worse off than low-income people who live in states with high health scores.

Cathy Schoen is senior vice president at The Commonwealth Fund and the author of the new report. She spoke with Cyndy Canty, host of Stateside, earlier in the day.

Listen to the full interview above.

More than 1,500 works of art, with more than 160 venues, and 47 countries represented. Those are just a few statistics of this year's ArtPrize in Grand Rapids opening today with some 400,000 expected visitors to the city. Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith was on the scene, and we spoke to her as well as the new Executive Director of ArtPrize.

And, Congressman Justin Amash has decided not to run for U.S. senate. What does this decision mean for the rest of the candidates?

The University of Michigan announced earlier that they will now offer in-state tuition to undocumented students. We talked with Serena Davila, the executive director for Legislative Affairs for the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, about what this means for the students.

Also, how well are health care systems in the U.S. working? A new report by the Commonwealth Fund gave us some answers.

And, the small town of Colon in southwest Michigan has been dubbed the “Magic Capital of the World.” We spoke with one resident to find out why that is.

First on the show, our weekly check-in with Detroit News Business Columnist Daniel Howes. And, on the front-burner? The mediation talks between Detroit's Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr and dozens and dozens of lawyers representing the city's creditors. Howes joined us to tell us more about the mediation.

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If you’re a Michigander looking for health insurance this fall, relax — help is on the way. Well, at least some help.

Earlier this August, Michigan Radio’s Steve Carmody reported four groups were picked by the federal government to navigate Michigan’s uninsured — or underinsured — through the new health insurance market developed under the Affordable Care Act.

On October 1 — the day the new marketplace opens up — the aptly named “navigators” will guide Michigan residents through their choices under Obamacare.

“Navigators are entities that are working on behalf of the exchange at no cost to consumers,” said Don Hazaert, the executive director of Michigan Consumers for Healthcare. MCH is one of the organizations selected to navigate Michiganders, along with Community Bridges Management, the Arab Community Center for Economic & Social Services, and American Indian Health and Family Services of Southeastern Michigan.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit could end health care coverage for retired employees younger than 65.

Retiree health care costs make up about $6 billion of Detroit’s roughly $11 billion in unsecured debt.

City officials told Detroit pension trustees Wednesday that emergency manager Kevyn Orr is considering the plan. The idea isn’t new, though—Orr floated it as early as June, in his proposal to Detroit’s creditors before the city filed for bankruptcy.

Orr’s plan calls for the younger retirees to shifted onto the new insurance exchanges coming online with the Affordable Care Act.

Michigan businesses are trying to get ready for changes to the health care system by the Affordable Care Act.

But there's a lot of confusion, especially for small businesses.

Jennifer Kluge with the Michigan Business and Professional Association says the new health care system will increase costs for small businesses.

"For small businesses, there's nothing affordable about health care reform," she said.

But Brett Williams with Michigan Consumers for Healthcare says it's too early to tell, but rates could decrease over time.

Patricia Drury / Flickr

Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr proposed a new health care plan to the city’s 47 unions Friday morning, according to Reuters.

The plan will save the city $12 million a year by raising deductibles and trimming the number of plans available, but it will keep premiums the same.

Currently, there are 20 health care plans available to employees. Orr wants to reduce that number. Under his plan, single city workers will see their annual deductibles increase nearly fourfold -- from $200 to $750 -- and out-of-pocket expenses will be capped at $1,500. Married employees will see annual deductibles increase to $1,500, and out-of-pocket expense will be capped at $4,500.

Co-pays for doctor visits and prescription drugs will stay the same. The city will also continue to offer vision and dental plans. Preventive measures will still be free.

Orr said in a statement:

“We think this is the best plan we could propose given Detroit's financial crisis, but I look forward to hearing from union leadership on their ideas to lower healthcare costs. . . . The City’s plan holds the line on premium costs for employees while allowing Detroit to save enough money to put another 100 police officers or firefighters on the streets.”

The proposal is part of Detroit’s financial restructuring efforts to eliminate more than $18 billion in debt.

-Michelle Nelson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Detroit Public Schools get new emergency manager

Governor Rick Snyder has named Jack Martin as the new emergency manager for Detroit Public Schools. Martin replaces Roy Roberts, who is retiring after two years in the position. Martin is leaving his position as Detroit’s chief financial officer.  Roberts says DPS still has a long way to go, but conditions are noticeably better than when he started; the current budget deficit is more than $70 million.

Retiree health care coverage suspended in Pontiac

Pontiac’s emergency manager Louis Schimmel has proposed the Emergency Loan Board address an expected $6 million general fund shortfall in the current budget year. The board approved a plan to suspend health care coverage for retirees from the city of Pontiac and increase their monthly pension payments. The city's roughly 1,000 pensioners will get an extra $400 a month to buy their own health care, the Associated Press reports.

EPA now accepting Great Lakes grant applications

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has $9.5 million to distribute for Great Lakes projects and is looking for takers. The money comes from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, an Obama administration program to clean up and protect the lakes from a variety of threats. A webinar explaining the application process will be held July 30.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Federal prosecutors reached a multimillion-dollar, out-of-court settlement this week with a Jackson cardiologist in a health care fraud case.

It’s the latest in a string of Medicare and Medicaid fraud cases in Michigan. Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of Michigan have filed nearly 300 charges of health care fraud during the past five years. Half the time, defendants have pled guilty or were convicted. And the pace of prosecutions has picked up during the past few years.

"This is about caring about one another, eh."

Well, he probably didn't turn on his Upper Peninsula dialect, but he certainly carried his message of support for Medicaid expansion in Michigan to the Yoopers.

Ever since he cut his trade mission to Israel short last month, Gov. Snyder has been pushing the state Senate to pass a bill that would allow the state to offer Medicaid to almost a half a million Michigan citizens.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

For a lot of uninsured families in Michigan, this is a big week.

Lawmakers in Lansing are sloooowly moving ahead with expanding the state’s Medicaid program.

That would give another 470,000 Michiganders coverage.

So who exactly are we talking about here?

The morning I meet Jen and Todd Nagle, we have no clue the day will end with Todd being rushed to the doctor for chest pains.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - More than 30 conservative and tea party activists say they won't support Gov. Rick Snyder's re-election because of his support for expanding Medicaid eligibility to more Michigan adults under the federal health care law.

In an open letter to the Republican governor Tuesday, the advocates faulted him for consulting with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Medicaid expansion.

They accuse Snyder of purposefully sticking a "finger in the eye of his own conservative base." The activists - including some of Michigan's better-known tea party advocates - say a "line must be drawn."

Snyder and Republican legislative leaders sent a letter to Sebelius May 29 asking her to meet with them in Michigan. The House is considering legislation that would expand Medicaid but require a federal waiver.

Up to half a million Michigan residents could lose their health insurance if the legislature fails to expand Medicaid.

Low-income Michiganders covered by local health plans could lose their coverage in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act. The law was written with the assumption states would accept federal funds to expand Medicaid.

Adrian Clark / flickr

A planned mega-merger between two of Michigan’s largest health systems has been scuttled.

Beaumont and Henry Ford health systems are two of southeast Michigan’s three largest health care providers.

Democrats did something unusual yesterday. They came out with some new ideas and announced a package of things and innovative reforms they are for, rather than against.

The subject was mainly women’s health care, and for once, the party seems united around a well-thought out package of bills. Tim Griemel, who is still finding his voice as House Minority Leader, told a press conference “when a woman doesn’t get the health care she needs when she is pregnant, it isn’t just her own health that’s at stake. When a woman can’t get the care she needs after a violent attack, everyone who loves and supports her suffers along with her.”

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37,000 low-income Michiganders and small-business customers may be eligible for health coverage through a new health insurance cooperative, the Lansing State Journal reports.

With $72 million in federal funding, Consumers Mutual Insurance of Michigan is an alternative health care option for families and businesses looking for coverage after provisions of the Affordable Care Act go into effect January 2014.

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