Michigan Universal Health Care Access Network

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MichUHCAN Newsletter for June, 2000

Coalition Looks at Access for Medicaid Patients

A new, local Coalition for Health Care Access called a town hall meeting in April. The meeting was to discuss "Health Care Services at Risk."

The coalition is a combination of community and religious groups (the Archdiocese of Detroit, Warren-Conner Development Coalition, and others) and major health systems (including Henry Ford, DMC, the Southeast Michigan Health and Hospital Council). The meeting was coordinated by staff from St. John Health System.

The goal of the meeting was to get participants to contact legislators and demand restoration of Medicaid funding. The cuts of 1997 have taken their toll: three Michigan hospitals closed in the last 18 months, and fewer physicians accepting Medicaid patients. St John says it must consider cutting its school-based clinics, which served 9,000 children in the fall of 1999, because of lost revenue. Three state legislators gave supporting views. (The Michigan Legislative Black Caucus is a member of the coalition.)

Several speakers and audience members did address some of the underlying problems with our system. MichUHCAN's Dr. Susan Steigerwalt spoke up for single payer health care. The problem of 600,000 people uninsured in southeast Michigan was mentioned. State Senator Joe Young said, "I've never understood why (citizens) give legislators what's practically national health insurance, and don't demand it for yourselves."

Still, the failed experiment in Medicaid managed care, and the need for more funding, was the real focus. It will be up to community and activist groups to push for more long-lasting solutions.

News Bits

In case you didn't know: a recent study by Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland found that the uninsured were less likely to consult a physician if they had potentially serious symptoms: 24% got help for symptoms such as blurred vision, severe ankle sprain, or the appearance of a tumor or mass in the breast-compared to 45% for the insured.

They're back! Crittenton Hospital in Rochester Hills has hired the Hunter Group to assess the hospital's operations. The Hunter Group is known as slash-and-burn consultants who seek to restore hospitals' financial health by cutting staff-with little regard to effects on patient care. Their last local gig was at the Detroit Medical Center.

More than 30% of teaching hospitals are operating at a loss, according to Ralph Muller, head of the University of Chicago Hospital. Such hospitals train 75% of the nation's doctors and provide 44% of the care for the poor.

Is private health insurance the solution? Consider: for-profit insurer CIGNA allowed one of its corporate customers, Phillip Morris, to censor CIGNA's newsletter mailed to Phillip Morris employees. For instance, the tobacco company didn't want employees reading that people with high blood pressure should quit smoking.

Detroit Chapter Mtg:

Thurs., June 1, 7:30 pm

Come be a part of the movement for universal health care!

Legislators Endorse U2K

These legislators have endorsed our U2K campaign. U2K seeks to make a broad statement about the need for universal health care. The statement will be used in the course of this fall's election season to publicize the wide support that exists for universal health care. For more information about U2K and how you can get involved, come to our June meeting, or contact Marylyn Schmidt (248-674-3520).

Liz Brater, Ann Arbor

Lingg Brewer, Holt

LaMar Lemmons, Detroit

Lynne Martinez, Lansing

Hubert Price, Lansing

Alma Wheeler Smith, Washtenaw County

Nancy Quarles, Southfield

David Woodward, Madison Heights

Medical Society Leader Discusses Physicians' Views

Dr. Joseph Weiss, who is active in the Wayne County Medical Society, joined the Detroit Chapter meeting in May.

Dr. Weiss is optimistic about physicians' increasing recognition of the need for fundamental change in our system. "It's abhorrent to doctors, it strikes deep, to have to tell a patient they can't get a drug they need because their insurance won't cover it," he said. This experience is being faced in all specialties.

(One organizing tip from the doctor was the observation that many of today's physicians identify more closely with the organization representing their specialty than with a general organization like the American Medical Association. So the support of such specialty organizations, some of which have endorsed single payer, is quite important for doc's in that specialty-and for the reform movement.)

In Michigan, the state medical society did not quash a resolution for single-payer reform at its last convention, but sent it to the steering committee for review. In other words, it's a live debate among Michigan physicians.


Last month's newsletter incorrectly identified Dr. Joseph Weiss' organization. He is past president of the Wayne County Medical Society.