Michigan Business & Economy

Cost trumps doctor choice in Michigan insurance market

May 20, 2015
Emily Orpin/Flickr

In Michigan, people shopping for health insurance are likely to pick cost savings over the chance to keep their current doctor, according to new research from the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation.

Center Executive Director Marianne Udow-Phillips says comparison shopping has gotten easier for people with the healthcare exchange.

The U.S. Supreme Court will soon hand down a ruling that may decide whether thousands of Michiganders can afford health insurance.

The court could strike down insurance subsidies offered under the federal health care law. That’s in states like Michigan where the federal government runs the health care exchange.

The ruling is expected this summer. But some state lawmakers are already debating whether to set up a state-run health exchange.

Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Center

May 17th, 2002 was the official date when tart cherry trees reached full bloom in northern Michigan that year. The orchards looked normal but most of the cherry buds had been destroyed in April by freezing cold.

The Leelanau Enterprise ran a headline that summer that said “No Cherries.”

Ben LaCross is a second generation grower on a farm north of Cedar. He says nobody could recall a cherry crop failing so completely.

S.S. Badger sets sail to a greener future

May 15, 2015
S.S. Badger

A Lake Michigan icon sets sail today with a new lease on life.

The Ludington-based car-ferry S.S. Badger will still give passengers the experience of riding a historic, coal-fired vessel. But the largest coal-fired passenger ship operating in the U.S. will no longer dump its coal ash into the lake.

Ken Bosma

The deer herd in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is so depleted the state is even talking about closing the firearm season this year. It’s just one option listed in a report to the Natural Resources Commission about possible responses to the situation.

Wildlife biologists estimate the population of deer in the UP is at its lowest level in 30 years. Extremely cold winters, particularly in 2014, are to blame, according to the report.

Things are going to be brighter in Warren. Literally.

The Macomb County city plans to swap out all of its streetlights to LED. DTE Energy Co. says this will be the largest collaborative municipal LED conversion yet.

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts said that in total, the city has around 11,000 streetlights. Of those 11,000 , 6,329 are mercury vapor lights.

Spring has a lot of faces around the country, like the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., and the sap run in Vermont. On one Michigan island, it's horses that are the harbinger of the season.

Mackinac Island draws a million visitors a year for its scenery, fudge and horses. Cars aren't allowed on the island, and every spring, hundreds of horses are ferried from their winter hiatus in the Upper Peninsula for a good grooming and harness fitting, before beginning their summer jobs pulling carriages.

The "Question Mark Building" in Honor, is coming down.
Daniel Wanschura

If you’ve ever driven through the town of Honor on U.S. 31, you’ve likely seen the “Question Mark Building.” 

It’s a dilapidated old structure that had a bright pink facade with a large question mark painted on the front. 

Well, the building is finally coming down. 

Talk to the locals in the town of Honor, and you’ll realize that there is a bit of a love - hate relationship with the building on the corner of Henry and Main Street. 

 

We've heard about all the progress made towards autonomous cars.

The idea is: you get in, sit back, and let the car do the driving.

However, research suggests that not everyone will be able to enjoy this new-found freedom from the wheel.

Automobile insurance rates are expensive in Michigan. The state regularly places in the top ten for highest rates in the country.

But Republicans in Lansing say they have an answer that could lead to lower premiums. The state Senate passed a bill last week that would overhaul Michigan's no-fault insurance system by targeting the way insurers deal with healthcare providers, among other changes.

Rick Pluta, the capitol bureau chief of the Michigan Public Radio Network, explains how the plan would work:


Timo Newton Syms/Flickr

The Michigan Senate has taken an initial step toward overhauling Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance system.

The legislation would set limits on what hospitals could charge insurance companies. It would also cap what insurers can be charged for in-home care for people severely injured in car accidents.

“The best approach to bringing down insurance rates in Michigan is to get costs out of the system – to get costs out of the system,” said state Senator Joe Hune (R-Fowlerville), who chairs the Senate Insurance Committee,

Michigan’s unemployment rate has dropped to 5.6 percent. That’s a reduction of three-tenths of a percentage point, which is a bigger-than-usual adjustment.   

But that decline in the monthly rate is due to a reduction in the workforce, as it’s measured by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and the state Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives. Actual month-to-month new hiring was flat, but there were fewer people competing for those jobs.

That didn’t stop Governor Rick Snyder (R) from trumpeting the new jobs numbers in a prepared statement:

Peter Payette

Vintners in Michigan could have another disaster on their hands this year. Last year, Michigan vineyards produced about one fourth of the grapes grown in a normal season. The results could be about the same this year and that might leave wineries with little in the their cellars.

There's a hotel boom happening in downtown Detroit. Once-abandoned buildings are now gleaming new hotels, or will be soon. But will these plans give Detroit too many hotel rooms or not enough? And there have been lengthy discussions over the two hotels near the new Red Wings arena site just north of downtown.

Aaron Selbig

Affordable housing is hard to find up north. If you want a vacation rental for a week, it's not too difficult to find one. But it can be tough to find an apartment or house to rent in the long term, especially if you're lower or middle-income.

And, of course, affordable is a relative term.

The Next Idea

When was the last time you drank a bottle of Michigan wine? If it’s difficult to remember, you are sadly not alone.

Huge ice chunks stacked some 8 feet deep on Lake Superior have left 18 freighters stuck. The U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards have gotten involved, sending Canadian icebreakers and American vessels to help the ships break free from Whitefish Bay.

Peter Payette

Next month, Michigan voters will decide whether to boost funding for the state’s roads by more than $1 billion.

Decaying roads have dominated headlines in Michigan for more than year, but polling data shows Proposal 1 is likely headed for failure.

An Epic MRA poll from last week showed it trailing among likely voters by a margin of two-to-one.

We hear from Rick Pluta of the Michigan Public Radio Network about why the measure is unpopular and what alternatives may exist.

Tom Carr

Michigan has a number of wind farms because the state basically made them mandatory in 2008. That was when lawmakers decided a certain amount of our electricity must come from renewable resources, and utilities built wind turbines to comply.

Now, wind energy is, by some measurements, among the cheapest ways to keep the lights on. But nobody seems to be rushing to build more.

In fact, the man who has developed the wind farms we have in northern Michigan says his enthusiasm for wind is waning.

Dan Gilbert has added One Detroit Center to his impressive portfolio of downtown Detroit properties, making it more than 70 downtown properties that Gilbert and his partners now own.

The purchase has caused Ally Financial with its 1,300 employees to move to One Detroit Center instead of Southfield. This announcement was accompanied by Ally's CEO conceding that the downtown location will be more expensive than the suburbs.

Daniel Wanschura

When Joe and Bobbi Woods bought a 40-acre parcel in Rapid City, they weren't thinking about starting a maple syrup farm. They planned to grow hay.

What started out with a just few buckets 20 years ago, has now grown into a nearly 600-gallon maple syrup operation annually. It’s a family operation for the Woods. During syrup season, their son Grant usually helps out, checking to make sure the sap flows freely through the line system.

Entrepreneurs can pop up out of anywhere.

Take Kellyann Wargo of Ann Arbor.

While she was a student at the University of Michigan, her entrepreneur’s eye saw a business opportunity in the “Walk of Shame” so many students take on the “morning after the night before.”

Just about anywhere you see young parents, there’s a good chance you will see Action Baby Carriers. In place of pushing a baby in a stroller, these carriers let you “wear” your baby or toddler, and these carriers are made in Detroit.

“We made a carrier that you buckle to your body, so that you can be hands free and still have your baby nice and close to you,” said Andrea Govender, who owns Action Baby Carriers with her husband.

There's a lot of attention and talk directed at start-ups about attracting new business to Michigan.

But writer Ilene Wolff pays tribute to some venerable long-time Michigan businesses. Her story, The Century Club: Michigan firms and businesses that have truly withstood the test of time, is in the current March/April print edition of DBusiness.

Jake Neher / Michigan Public Radio Network

  Michigan could realistically get up to 40 percent of its energy using renewable sources by 2025, according to Gov. Rick Snyder (The video of the full speech is here).

His goal of boosting renewable energy to between 30 percent and 40 percent in the next decade includes increased energy efficiency to get to those numbers. The governor says increased efficiency should play a central role in Michigan’s energy future.

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