Michigan Healthcare

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From debate over childhood vaccinations to the changing business of hospital finance, IPR has the stories of hospitals and public health that affect northern Michigan.

Pro-Fluoride Group Wants Public Vote In Boyne City

Jul 16, 2014
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A Boyne City group wants fluoride back in the public water supply. That’s after Boyne City leaders ended the 40-year fluoridation program in May.

The group “Citizens United for Dental Health” is organizing a petition-drive to get the question on the November ballot.

Tom Veryser, the President of Michigan Community Dental Clinics, is a dentist and Boyne City resident. He supports fluoridation. He says he's seen anti-fluoride activism in the past, but was still shocked with the city commission's vote.

The state Legislature returns this week for its only scheduled session day in July. A state Senate panel is likely to vote on bills that would relax restrictions on medical marijuana.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, chairs the Senate Government Operations Committee. He did not support the bills when the state House sent them to the Senate late last year. But he says his position has changed.

Michigan cannot ban all felons from being caregivers in the state’s Medicaid in-home care program. That’s according to state officials who outlined an upcoming background check system on Monday.

People convicted of patient abuse or neglect, health care fraud, or drug-related crimes will be barred from working with in-home Medicaid patients. But state officials say federal law prevents them from excluding people based on crimes that are not related to in-home care.

April 1 was an important day for many in Michigan. It was the day nearly half a million people in our state became newly eligible for the expanded Medicaid program.

Since then, more than 300,000 people have enrolled. Many have not seen a physician for a long time. Or, they have relied on emergency rooms for their medical care.

As revealed in a study published in the medical journal JAMA Surgery, there's good news and challenging news in all of this.

Certainly it's good that patients will be able to turn to a physician for medical care.

But the challenge is the overall poor health of many of these patients, especially surgical patients, and that has many implications – to the patients, to the hospitals and to the surgeons treating them.

Chief Medical Officer of the University of Michigan Health System, Dr. Darrell Campbell, Junior, talked about the study on Stateside.

Campbell analyzed data on 14,000 patients who had operations in 52 hospitals in Michigan from July 2012 to June 2013. The study looked at the Medicaid population and compared them to people with private insurance but were around the same age. The study analyzed the condition those patients were in prior to their surgical procedure.

“What we found was that they weren’t in very good shape,” Campbell said. “And that has consequences for the results after they have surgery, not only in terms of how well they do from physical point of view but also the cost and resources that are used afterwards.”

  With the resignation of Veteran Affairs Head Eric Shinseki, there are ongoing questions about long-term accountability in how the department handles medical care for current and former service members. Last week a bill by northern Michigan Congressman Dan Benishek, designed to add more oversight, made it through the House of Representatives.

Benishek joined us to talk about the legislation, and what he thinks needs to be done to get the VA on the right track. He’s on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

Listen to the interview above.

Courtesy of Northern Lakes Community Mental Health

Mental health providers plan to teach people in northern Michigan a different sort of first aid next week. Not CPR -- but a sort of triage for mental health.

Northern Lakes Community Mental Health is teaching a workshop on how to respond to emergencies among adults and children. It’s a crash-course in what they’re calling "first aid skills."

Cynthia Petersen of Northern Lakes says the class helps both the people who take it and those suffering from mental illness.

Tom Carr

While the state of Michigan grapples with how to regulate e-cigarettes, the electronic glow of the devices will still be allowed at the Grand Traverse County Civic Center.

The county parks and recreation commission has snuffed out a proposal to ban electronic cigarettes on civic center grounds. Smoking traditional cigarettes and other tobacco products is already prohibited.

But Dan Laubenheimer, who manages an e-cigarette store, applauded the committee’s decision not to ban the devices.

Tom Carr

Governor Rick Snyder says he’s troubled by legislation headed his way that would regulate nicotine vapor devices – or e-cigarettes.

That may be a signal the bill is headed for a veto, but the governor says he’s not ready to announce his decision – only that the bill is in for some “special attention.”   

“Well, I don’t normally say that so that let you know that it’s going to get some extra review,” he says. “I have concerns about what happens next because one of the real issues is, is it a tobacco product or not and should it be treated like a tobacco product?”

Two state departments are under fire for mismanaging a program that provides in-home care for Medicaid patients.

A new audit shows the program has misspent at least $160 million since 2010.

The Michigan auditor general’s report says the state also failed to make sure money was actually used to deliver services and that caregivers were qualified.

TC Commission Approves Fluoride In Water

Jun 17, 2014
David Cassleman

The Traverse City Commission voted five-to-one on Monday night to purchase a year’s supply of fluoride and continue a program that began more than 60 years ago.

Commissioner Jim Carruthers cast the lone vote against water fluoridation -- which he has opposed since he was first elected to the commission six years ago. Debate lasted for about an hour before the vote, where representatives from both sides of the issue had a chance to make their case.

The top lawmaker in the state Senate says he’s now on board with legislation to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, is now also embracing a bill that would allow state-certified patients to use edible and other non-smokable forms of marijuana.

TC Commission To Look At Fluoride In Drinking Water

Jun 16, 2014
David Cassleman

Every year in Traverse City, commissioners budget almost $30,000 to keep adding fluoride to the water supply. That usually passes with little fanfare. But this year it’s up for extra debate, and a group in town is raising some fierce opposition.

The controversy over long wait times and improper scheduling practices at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics has cost the job of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

It led to an internal VA audit of its health care facilities.

And that has caused the VA to flag three facilities in Michigan for a closer look.

For this conversation, we asked what might be happening at those facilities, and what this means to veterans in Michigan.

We're joined by Detroit Free Press Washington reporter Todd Spangler and Dr. Joe Schwartz, physician and former Republican Congressman from West Michigan. Dr. Schwartz is now a visiting lecturer at the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.

*Listen to the full interview above.

The government wants pregnant women to eat more fish. Yesterday the FDA and EPA issued new draft advice that urges pregnant and breastfeeding women to eat at least eight to twelve ounces of fish a week.

The update comes 10 years after the last recommendation, which didn't specify a minimum.

The FDA is worried that fears over mercury levels in seafood have kept many pregnant women from getting enough of the nutritional value needed for their babies.

Budget bills before the Michigan Senate this week include money to pay for 16,000 breast pumps to help poor mothers breastfeed newborn babies. The $2 million dollar provision was approved in a conference committee today.


“It’s just so important for the babies,” says bill sponsor Senator Goeff Hanson (R-Hart). “The best possible food that they can have.”

Hansen says that should help working mothers who are on Medicaid.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


A religious leader in the Diocese of Gaylord says he has no opposition the sale of two Catholic northern Michigan hospitals.

Earlier this week, Munson Healthcare in Traverse City announced it’s exploring the purchase of Mercy Cadillac and Mercy Grayling. The hospitals are currently owned by the hospital system CHE Trinity Health.

Monsignor Francis Murphy, of Cadillac, says he hopes Munson would continue the local mission to serve the poor.

Office visits are the bread and butter of many physicians' practices. Medicare pays for more than 200 million of them a year, often to deal with routine problems like colds or high blood pressure. Most require relatively modest amounts of a doctor's time or medical know-how.

Michigan Department of Community Health

Munson Healthcare is ready to acquire two more hospitals. The Traverse City-based system has signed a letter of intent to purchase Mercy Hospital Grayling and Mercy Hospital Cadillac.

The hospitals are now owned by CHE Trinity Health, a Catholic system with hospitals in 20 states and many in southern Michigan. Both have had a shared management arrangement with Munson for more than a decade.

Ed Ness, president and CEO of Munson Healthcare, says the move makes sense since the nearest Trinity Hospitals are in Muskegon and Grand Rapids.

A $100 million settlement has been reached in a lawsuit filed on behalf of victims of a tainted drug. In Michigan 19 people died of meningitis after getting a steroid shot contaminated with fungus. Nationwide, 64 people died and more than 750 people got sick.

Marc Lipton, one of the attorneys on a panel overseeing the case, says $100 million dollars is not nearly enough. But he says it's the best that could be done - since the company that made the bad drug went bankrupt.

Most of the money will come from companies that insured the drug maker.

A basic tenet of the Affordable Care Act is preventive care: Get people into the health care system before disease or disability set in.

But that's highlighting a problem with our medical education system. Medical schools are turning out too many specialists and not enough primary care physicians. Cynthia Canty spoke with Dr. William Strampel, dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Michigan State University. 

There's some pretty unsettling data that has come out about the health of the people who call the Upper Peninsula home. 

The Centers for Disease Control numbers say heart attack rates for the entire western and eastern UP for 2008-2010 are right up there at the highest level for the top five categories the CDC tracks.

What does the high rate of heart attack and heart disease say about health care and health habits in the UP? And what can bring those high rates down?

Dr. Teresa Frankovich, medical director for the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department, joined us. 

Listen to the full interview above. 

Jim Peck / Michigan State University

  A doctor and Michigan State University professor who lives in Traverse City may have solved a deadly mystery about malaria. Her story is reported on our daily international news program The World.

Full story here.

Peter Payette

Munson Healthcare broke ground today on a new cancer center in Traverse City.

The man who donated $5 million to the center, Casey Cowell, praised Munson for the new venture. Cowell says the region is “extremely fortunate” to have Munson based in Traverse City.