Michigan Universal Health Care Access Network

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MichUHCAN Newsletter March 2001

New Group Campaigns for Quality Care in Nursing Homes

A recent report from the federal General Accounting Office ranks Michigan near the bottom on quality of care in nursing homes. A two-year-old grassroots group, Michigan Campaign for Quality Care, aims to change that.

What the 53,000 residents in about 450 Michigan nursing homes experience is horrifying, say activists with the Campaign. Caregivers are too few and too poorly trained. Aides are frequently assigned care for 15 20 residents, forced to work double shifts, and barely paid the minimum wage meaning few caregivers stay long enough to get to know the individuals they're caring for.

The resulting mistakes and inattention can be disastrous for residents. Many die each year, say activists, from malnutrition and deyhdration because aides don't have time to help or even notice those too frail to feed themselves. The Campaign calls for increasing the state minimum number of nursing care hours from 2.25 hours per resident to at least 3.25, along with more stringent standards for training.

Behind the care problems is a lack of accountability for how Medicaid, Medicare, and residents' dollars are spent, says the Campaign. Executives are paid millions of dollars, while too little is budgeted for actual care. The campaign calls for requiring advisory boards that include residents, family members, and advocates, among other monitoring and accountability measures.

The Campaign for Quality Care is currently building support for legislative reforms for Michigan nursing homes. Watch for a speaker from the Campaign at an upcoming Detroit Chapter meeting. For information before then, contact one of the following: Phyllis Moga (313-386-7784); Lydia Rizzo (248-478-7293); or Joanne Barr (810-296-1660).

MichUHCAN fundraiser:

Sunday, April 1, beginning at 8:00 PM

Second City Comedy Club

Enjoy previews of the next, hilarious, still-untitled show!

Tickets: $20; to purchase contact a MichUHCAN activist or phone David Green at 248-855-3169.

Meeting change:

The statewide Steering Committee of MichUHCAN now meets at 3:00 PM on the first Friday of the month at the Livingston County offices in Howell. For more information, phone Margie Mitchell (248-477-7811).

Detroit Chapter Meeting:

Thursday, March 1, 7:30 PM

Plans and strategies for spring and summer action.
Come and be part of the health care solution!

Place: First United Methodist Church of Berkley
12 Mile Road, three blocks west of Coolidge;
park in the lot on the west side, beside the drug store;
enter from Kipling, east side of the church.

PNHP Leader Provides an Overview of the Movement

Ida Hellander has been on the staff of Physicians for a National Health Program for ten years. In February she gave the Detroit Chapter an overview of campaigns for single payer health care.

One of the strongest state efforts last fall was a health care initiative in Massachusetts which failed by 48% to 50%. The Massachusetts Campaign for Single Payer Health Care (http://www.masscare.org) continues building support in the legislature and the public.

In Washington State, activists failed to collect enough signatures to get their initative on the ballot; they've decided to spend one or two years organizing before any further attempts. Meanwhile, Hellander sadly reports that the Maryland Citizens for Health Care is backing away from their single payer mission in favor of more easily reachable goals.

In some states, activists are getting involved in new planning committees funded by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration. Last fall HRSA gave $13.6 million to eleven states for planning how to expand health care access. (The states are Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon, Vermont, and Wisconsin.)

Nationally, Hellander looks for President Bush to try to privatize Medicare. She says he'll likely offer a phony prescription drug plan as part of a push to get all Medicare recipients into private HMOs.

Meanwhile, the Congressional Progressive Caucus has drafted its own Medicare drug plan, called MEDS. PNHP leaders are working with Representative John Conyers and the Progressive Caucus toput together a medical commission on health care.