Right to Life files abortion coverage petitions

BY RICK PLUTA
Michigan Public Radio Network

Abortion opponents have turned in more than 315,000 petition signatures calling on the Legislature to place new restrictions on health coverage. The new law would require consumers to buy separate coverage for abortions.

Abortion opponents said they want to make sure that abortion coverage is not automatic when people buy insurance under the new federal healthcare law. The petition-initiated law would require consumers to buy a separate rider for abortion coverage. The Legislature is expected to adopt the measure instead of allowing it to the ballot.

Governor Rick Snyder vetoed a similar provision that was sent him last year by the Legislature, and he said he doesn’t regret it.

“Because it didn’t identify in terms of rape, incest kind of issues appropriately,” Snyder said.

A law initiated by a petition drive cannot be vetoed by the governor.

The question will go to the Legislature once the signatures are certified by a state board. This is the fourth time abortion foes used the petition process to enact a law.

Copyright 2013, MPRN

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Health officials add new screening test for newborns

BY JESI MUNGUIA

Michigan joins the 31 other states to screen newborn babies for critical congenital heart disease. Currently, every Michigan newborn is screened shortly after birth for 54 different disorders through bloodspots.

According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, said this simple screening can save lives and give newborns a chance at a healthy start.

Angela Minicuci the spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Community Health said, these diseases are very rare but are actually one of the most common birth defects affecting 9 out of 1,000 newborns.

“Critical congential heart disease is one of the most significant causes of infant death in the United States. That’s not a new statistic, but because it is so common nationally and because it can be so devastating. This is a huge step for Michigan to add this to our newborn screening programing,” Minicuci said.

The MDCH is always looking for new things to add to the newborn disorder screening lists.

Healthcare exchange goes live in Michigan

BY MIKE HORACE

In one of the most important steps in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, online shopping for a health care insurance plan in Michigan is now a reality for those who are currently uninsured. The Affordable Care Act requires most individuals to have insurance starting next year, and now they can let their fingers do the shopping through the online portal healthcare.gov.

According to executive director Don Hazaert of Michigan Consumers for Healthcare, the website is user-friendly, but help is available for those who need it in the form of specially-trained navigators.

“You would go to EnrollMichigan.com and just click on the ‘Find Your Navigator’ page, and there’s organizations throughout the state that have agreed to make someone available to assist consumers, at no cost.”

Hazaert stressed that there is no need to rush online, as those who would like to purchase a policy with coverage beginning January 1 have until December 15 to complete the enrollment process.

Hazaert also encouraged Michiganders to tune out the current rhetoric and political theater coming out of Washington, where some lawmakers have been threatening to delay or defund the Affordable Care Act as part of the budget battle.

“The health care reform law is the law of the land; it is not going anywhere; the marketplace is being implemented; there is a network in place to support consumers,” he declared. “Health care reform is going forward: nothing is stopping it.”

Michigan’s health care exchange will feature about a dozen insurance companies offering multiple plans, and most families will qualify for tax credits that bring down monthly premiums.

The health care insurance exchange is at HealthCare.gov. To find a Healthcare Navigator in Michigan, go to EnrollMichigan.com.

Early enrollment for Medicaid expansion delayed

BY JAKE NEHER
Michigan Public Radio Network

Low-wage Michiganders hoping to sign up for the state’s expanded Medicaid program tuesday will have to wait weeks or even months to do so. State officials hoped to begin early enrollment for the so-called “Healthy Michigan” plan Tuesday. But the Michigan Department of Community Health is still working to set up the program.

The Medicaid expansion also still needs to be approved by the federal government.

Angela Minicuci is a spokesperson for the department. She said state officials still haven’t sent a waiver request to Washington.

“We’re still working on it, so we haven’t gotten it in yet. But we are trying to do that as soon as possible, because once we have the waiver we’ll be able to kind of set some more set-in-stone deadlines for when we’ll be able to get people enrolled and when they’ll be able to get coverage,” Minicuci said.

Minicuci said they are on track to have the Medicaid expansion up and running by the time it takes effect in March or April. In the meantime, she said people should make sure they’ll be eligible for Medicaid by going to healthcare-dot-gov.

Copyright 2013, MPRN

BCBS working with physicians to change delivery of health care

BY DAVID NICHOLAS

The Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, officially becomes the law of the land today.

Before ObamaCare became a household term, doctors were already working with Michigan’s largest insurer to deliver better services to patients.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan continues to add medical practitioners to their “Patient Centered Medical Home Program.”

Simply defined, PCMH is designed to change the way doctors care for patients.

Since adopting the national model five years ago, Michigan has become the largest program in the country, now with over 3,700 physicians and over 1,200 physician practices enrolled in PCMH.

A team approach is used in treating patients, more technology is utilized to access information and, according to Tom Leyden of Blue Cross Blue Shield, the personal access to one’s doctor is key.

Many practices, Leyden said, are now offering evening or weekend hours, and in some cases, twenty-four hour access to a clinical decision maker.

Dr. Paul Simmons is an internist with a medical practice in Mt. Pleasant and a member of PCMH.

When I visited his office, I noted the manual of PCMH guidelines in clear view on the shelf above his desk.

He told me the move to a more extensive use of medical records has improved his level of efficiency.

Dr. Simmons and Tom Leydon of BCBS shared the belief that Michigan, with initiatives like PCMH, has been, in Leydon’s words, in front of many of the federal mandates associated with Obamacare.

“Amidst the backdrop of this changing face of healthcare comes a new group of medical practitioners, the first students to Central Michigan University’s College of Medicine,” Simmons said.

Founding Dean Dr. Ernie Yoder said the inaugural class of sixty-four students began their studies this fall with Patient Centered Medical Home as part of their program.

Blue Cross Blue Shield officials also emphasize that along with what they tout as improvements in the level of patient care under PCMH comes cost savings.

They recently announced savings of an estimated $155 million over the first three years of the program based, they say, on calculations made from an analysis published in the Health Services Research Journal.

WebMD partners with state to improve communication

BY AMY ROBINSON

The state has launched a new partnership; with Web MD.

The program is aimed at improving the way the Michigan public health agencies communicate urgent health messages.

Right now the state receives critical health alerts through the CDC’s Health Alert Network. The new Web MD partnership will provide another avenue for communication.

Dr. Matthew Davis is the Chief Medical Executive for the State of Michigan in the Department of Community Health.

“Over the past several decades, we’ve used phone calls, faxes and most recently emails to get the information out. Now we are able to partner with Medscape and WebMD to use their network and membership organization as well to get the word out through a web portal,” Davis said.

Dr. Davis said the new partnership is essentially free to the state.

He said Michigan has already established a Health Alert Network, and the Web MD partnership will tap into existing systems.

John Freeman, Michigan Director, Know Your Care, discusses the newly opened Healthcare Exchanges

BY AMY ROBINSON

Today marks two contrasting events in Michigan, and across the nation: the federal government has shut down, and federal healthcare exchanges have opened up.

The exchanges are online marketplaces where people can shop for health insurance under the new Affordable Care Act.

John Freeman is with the organization Know Your Care.

He said the federal shutdown will not interfere with the rollout of the exchanges.

“When the Affordable Care Act was enacted, they also enacted the funding to implement it at that time. So the fact that Congress is unable to come to an agreement regarding the budget for the government in the future, doesn’t impact upon the ACA because the funding has already been approved for it,” Freeman said.

Freeman said he has not received any feedback yet from consumers on the healthcare exchanges. He said the website is extremely busy, which indicates a high level of interest.

Freeman will be joining us in studio tomorrow night to answer your questions about the Affordable Care Act

Our call in special “Understanding Obamacare” will air from 7:00-8:00pm. We are still taking questions in advance.

Just call 231-818-8CMU. That’s 231-818-8CMU

Understanding Obamacare; tomorrow night at 7:00 on CMU Public Radio.