Michigan Healthcare

Credit Alex E Promios/Flickr

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.

One of the most important aspects of the Affordable Care Act is consumer choice. More choice leads to more competition among insurers, and that can mean lower costs to consumers.

But, as Michiganders shopped for health coverage on the federal marketplace, the amount of choice was not even.

If you lived in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb Counties, you got to choose from 55 insurance plans. If you lived in Delta County in the Upper Peninsula, you were only offered 5 plans, all of them from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Josh Fangmeier is a health policy analyst with the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation. He joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

A clinic for the uninsured is expanding its office in Traverse City, and adding a new doctor.

The Traverse Health Clinic also has begun accepting Medicaid. It’s planning for a surge of new patients who could struggle to find a doctor in private practice.

The clinic surveyed area physicians in 2012, says Development Director Sherri Fenton
“The majority of them had indicated to us that they have a cap on the number of Medicaid patients that they take,” she says. “And that that cap would likely not be changing.”

We've been hearing from the experts that, thanks to the great winter and our friend the polar vortex, this is going to be quite a year for allergy sufferers.

Perhaps it might be time to revive The Ca-Choo Club.

The Ca-Choo Club was a very unique way to attract visitors to Sault Ste. Marie.

Beginning in 1928, it welcomed allergy sufferers who turned up to breathe that clean, cool, pollen-free air that swept in off Lake Superior.

Writer Deidre Stevens dug into the history of this quirky Ca-Choo Club for Michigan History magazine, and she joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Michigan Launches Expanded Medicaid Program

Apr 1, 2014
Emily Orpin/Flickr

Michigan’s Medicaid expansion is officially up and running. That means hundreds of thousands of low-income Michiganders are now eligible for government-sponsored health care.

People making 133 percent of the federal poverty level or less are now eligible for the program, which is part of the federal Affordable Care Act. That’s about $15,000 dollars or less a year for an individual and about $32,000 or less for a family of four.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs says Michigan vets will not lose their federal benefits if they legally use medical marijuana. The VA’s statement is a response to the state’s decision to add post-traumatic stress disorder to its medical marijuana program.

Michigan Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) Director Steve Arwood approved the change a couple weeks ago. But he urged veterans to consult with a VA representative first. He said it was unclear whether using medical marijuana would put their federal benefits at risk.

Rick Pluta / Michigan Public Radio Network

Governor Rick Snyder says he wants electronic cigarettes to be regulated in Michigan as tobacco products. E-cigarettes deliver a dose of nicotine to users in a mist. There is a bill in the Legislature to ban e-cigarette sales to minors, but would not tax them like cigarettes or subject them to other tobacco-related regulations.

 The governor says it makes more sense to simply treat them as a tobacco product.

Three community hospitals in northern Lower Michigan have joined larger health systems in the last couple years, in Petoskey, Ludington and Cheboygan. Munson Healthcare seriously considered doing so a few years back. Most recently, an out-of-state for profit has started running three hospitals in the Upper Peninsula.

Rusty Blazenhoff/Flickr

Michigan residents suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder will be able to use medical marijuana to treat their symptoms.

“I hope they can find some peace to this,” says David Brogren, who sits on the state panel that voted earlier this month to recommend the change. “I hope they can use medical marijuana to sleep or to have the bad dreams go away, or not be repeated as much. I hope it’ll mask some of the pain they have that will keep them safe and their families safe.”

State lawmakers will probably double the amount of money they had planned to spend on fixing roads torn apart by nasty weather this winter.

A legislative conference committee hopes to approve a mid-year budget bill Tuesday that will probably include about $200 million to fix potholes and help local governments pay for things like salt and snow plowing.

The debate over reviving medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan starts up again in Lansing this week.

A state Senate panel will hear public testimony on House Bill 4271, which would let communities decide whether to allow dispensaries and how to regulate them. It is also expected to take up House Bill 5104, which would allow patients to use edible and other non-smokable forms of cannabis.

Rusty Blazenhoff/Flickr

Dakota Serna served in the Marines during the Iraq War. He says memories of seeing friends and children killed left him suicidal after he came home. Serna says the only thing that has helped him get his life back on track is using marijuana.

But that puts him on the wrong side of the law as it is currently written.

“Somebody on paper can say that I’m a criminal,” said Serna. “Somebody can come to my house and try to put me in handcuffs. But I’m not a criminal.”

It could soon be illegal to sell electronic cigarettes to children in Michigan. The state Senate unanimously passed legislation Thursday meant to keep the smokeless devices out of the hands of minors (Senate Bills 667 & 668).

So-called “e-cigarettes” deliver a nicotine-laced vapor, but don’t contain tobacco. That means the state cannot currently regulate them along with regular cigarettes and other tobacco products.

McLaren Northern Michigan Announces Cuts

Feb 26, 2014
Linda Stephan

Today the hospital serving Petoskey and Cheboygan announced it is cutting 43 workers, and reducing hours for another 100 of its employees. McLaren Northern Michigan says changes are effective immediately.

The move continues a trend of cost-cutting layoffs in Petoskey that stretches back several years to its time as an independent hospital.

Cheboygan has also seen significant cutbacks in recent years, as in-patient hospital services were eliminated following a bankruptcy and sale in 2012.

Winter doesn't just mean freezing temperatures  – it's also a time when we are more likely to get sick. Which leads us to our next question: Do you vaccinate your kids?

It seems for more and more Michigan parents, the answer is no. 

When it comes to kids not getting vaccinated because their parents claim some personal or religious exemption, Michigan ranks number four in the nation. 

But resistance to vaccinations didn't just start with Jenny McCarthy or the study by British doctor Andrew Wakefield that alleged a link between vaccines and autism – a study that has since been discredited as being based on faulty science. 

It goes back long before that.

Gender and medical historian Jacqueline Antonovich has studied and written about the history of our relationship with vaccinations. 

Antonovich recently wrote in the blog nursingclio.org about this topic, and it was pretty personal for her, as someone who has had whooping cough.

At the state Capitol, House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) says he still hopes to get an overhaul of Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance law through the Legislature this year.  He rolled out a new plan to end Michigan’s unlimited lifetime medical benefits coupled with the promise of a rate reduction.

“We do seek to ensure more drivers, make our auto insurance more affordable,” said Bolger at a news conference to announce the proposal.

Rusty Blazenhoff/Flickr

Some Michigan medical marijuana patients and caregivers could soon be banned from smoking or growing cannabis where they live.

A state Senate panel approved a bill on Tuesday that would let landlords decide whether to allow tenants to grow or smoke medical marijuana.


It takes a lot of heavy lifting to become a physician, a nurse, a dietician or other health-care professional. Long years of coursework and clinical training leave little room to learn other important skills – the kind of skills that can make a health professional an important player in the public policy sphere and prepared to tackle some of our most urgent environmental health challenges.

That's why the Ecology Center is offering a new fellowship program that can train health professionals about effective civic engagement and environmental health risks.

Listen to the full piece above.

We’re all regularly exposed to the chemical Bisphenol A or BPA. Companies have taken it out of baby bottles, and many kinds of those hard plastic water bottles no longer have BPA in them.

But it’s still used on paper receipts and to line most food and drink cans.

Dana Dolinoy is a Searle Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

“There is mounting evidence that BPA has negative health effects in both animal models and humans,” says Dolinoy.

Researcher hunts for new medicines in the Great Lakes

Feb 4, 2014

Let's call today Throwback Tuesday, and go way, way back to the 1920s.

That's when Sir Alexander Fleming stumbled on a mold that stopped bacteria from growing in a petri dish. He called it penicillin.

Ever since that huge discovery, people have been looking all over the Earth for more organisms that can fight disease.

Brian Murphy has been searching at the bottom of the Great Lakes.

Medical marijuana advocates are blasting new legislation in Lansing that would make it easier to remove children from the homes of patients.

Senate Bill 736 would allow judges to inspect personal medical records to determine if marijuana use is appropriate. If they decide that it’s not appropriate, they could order the patient to stop using cannabis or deem them unfit parents or guardians.

Henry Ford Hospital treats Detroit residents.

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