Michigan Universal Health Care Access Network

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MichUHCAN Newsletter January 2000

Lansing: Turning Talk into Action on Access

by Keith McCall

After seven months of discussions, a broad group of 200 health care providers, city of Lansing and county officials, and everyday people gathered in November to translate their plans into actions. The group had been exploring ways to increase access to health care for the uninsured of Ingham County.

Breakout sessions were held on five broad goal statements with the intent to translate them into action steps and then assign each of these to an appropriate group or agency in this community. The five goals were: Empowering and respecting consumers, increasing public understanding of healthy lifestyles, community ownership of the need for universal access, simplifying access to care through coordination of services, and developing ways to share the cost of an organized system.

Through earlier efforts, currently 9,000 of the 30,000 uninsured persons in Ingham County have secured access, mainly though the efforts of an Ingham County Health Department program. The program utilizes $2 million of the Health Department's own money, $1.2 million from state funds, and $3.4 million secured from additional federal funds.

Looking for More Doc's

This program has been able to meet the costs of doctors, X-rays, laboratory tests, and prescription drugs and may be able to expand shortly to cover 14,000 persons if they can get more doctors to participate. Planning efforts to date have been funded by grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Kellogg Foundation.

Of the extensive list of Action Reports completed at this meeting, the following are of specific interest to MichUHCAN: Community voices and faith communities to promote universal health care coverage; emphasize prevention early; educational campaign to support those who do not have health insurance; increase the awareness of available services within this community; and recommend that local governments explore a property tax levy, similar to Capital Area Transportation Authority tax to fund the area's bus system.

The two local hospitals plan to take the broad ideas that emerged at the November meeting to area residents by sponsoring neighborhood meetings early next year.

Detroit Chapter Mtg:

Thurs Jan 6, 7:30pm

Topic: Politics of Universal Health Care, with invited speakers
State Senator Alma Wheeler Smith
State Representative Gilda Jacobs

Also to be discussed - Plans for the U2K Campaign

News Bits

Officials of the Detroit Medical Center say they're feeling a little better; this fall, the system actually had two profitable months. Unpaid bills for Medicaid patients and caring for the growing number of working poor-uninsured people ineligible for Medicaid-continue to be problems for the DMC, which is also facing a shortage of nurses.

Detroit area hospitals continue to show an income gap between urban and suburban systems. A recent survey showed that the three urban systems-DMC, Henry Ford, and St. John-had a combined loss of about $97 million for the period ending June 30. Suburban hospitals, which rely less on Medicaid payments and provide less care to the uninsured, together had a net gain of about $97 million.

Buying a new car? You're also paying for our inefficient, profit-driven health care system. DaimlerChrysler says its U.S. health care expenditures account for about $1,300 of the cost of each new vehicle-the largest single expense on a car or truck, including wages and steel.

SelectCare, a Detroit area HMO, is planning to cut its Medicaid membership by 13,000 people-nearly half their current enrollment. The move comes as the owners seek to sell SelectCare. Other insurers have also reduced Medicaid participation because of low reimbursement rates from the state.

U2K: Year-Long Push for Health Care Is On

MichUHCAN and its Detroit Chapter have decided to join the national UHCAN's push to make universal health care a prominent issue in the 2000 elections. The project is called "U2K." We'll be joining activists across the country to urge other organizations-church, labor, and community groups-to sign on to a statement of principles on health care. As the list of signers grows, so does the pressure on politicians.

Across the country there are already dozens of local groups signed on to U2K, as well as national organizations like the Gray Panthers and the National Council of Churches of Christ. The American Public Health Association passed a resolution in support at their recent convention. The UHCAN office reports they have their first organizer on board.

In Michigan, a working committee will be convening in January to plan outreach. For information or input, contact Margie Mitchell, statewide MichUHCAN chair (248-477-7911); or Detroit chair Susan Steigerwalt (313-531-2136).

Be an Expert!

The Detroit Labor Party is training speakers for their "Just Health Care" campaign. They'll be sending people to union meetings, block clubs, community groups, and elsewhere to build support for a national single-payer health plan.

The training will be in two sessions, and participants are requested to attend both. MichUHCAN's Margie Mitchell will lead the sessions and a slide show will be included.

The sessions are Saturday, January 8 and Saturday, January 15; 10 am - 2 pm; UNITE union hall at 1550 Howard St. (near Tiger Stadium-it's still standing) in Detroit. To sign up call Jane Slaughter, 313-554-4110.