Health Care Access: Admirable Goal

May 28, 2004
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Treating physical illnesses is considerably more expensive than the comparatively minor cost of prevention. A variety of community health initiatives have been announced in both Muskegon and Kent counties to emphasize healthy behavior and annual physical check-ups as one way to lower the cost of health-care benefits. The high cost of care for illnesses is shared, or spread, among payers — employers. While the growing number of individuals who do not have access to health care may have received passing notice by employers, it has become a chief concern in the medical community as one of the issues continuing to spike the cost of benefits.

Grand Rapids Business Journal applauds the efforts of Michigan Medical PC surgeon John MacKeigan, M.D., who became the Michigan State Medical Society’s new president in May, and promptly made access to care the No. 1 issue for physicians across the state.

A Business Journal story this week reports that The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation research shows that 857,000 Michigan residents between the ages of 18 and 64 are without health-care benefits, though 531,000 are working adults. A poll of those without coverage showed that those individuals reported their health was fair to poor.

MacKeigan, in his speech to the Michigan State Medical Society, said, “A failure of access is a failure of our society. A failure of access reflects on all of us, and on our profession.” He further challenged physicians to advocate in their communities for partnerships among physicians, business and industry and the public sector to address the issue and share responsibility for providing universal access.

He can look to Kent County for examples: the Alliance for Health was proactive in helping to create the Kent County Health Plan. Khan Nedd, M.D., is vice chair of the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute, which is committed to addressing access issues and to reducing the infant mortality rate, which is more than double in the African-American community compared to the Caucasian population and the total Kent County population. Kent County African American males and females are almost twice as likely to suffer and die from cancer and heart disease than Caucasians. In a presentation for The Delta Strategy last week, Nedd emphasized the need for community partnerships to have impact on the areas at issue.

There has been growing recognition in the health-care industry that language barriers impede access to care, especially among the Asian, Bosnian and Hispanic communities. Interpreters are a valuable hospital resource.

Employers can easily provide employees with low-cost flu shots and various health tests. Huntington Bank is currently participating in the YMCA Get Moving, Get Healthy program, and created friendly competition among employees who elected to wear pedometers and measure their strides. Huntington is reporting some happy, healthy results.

It makes sense that those who are paying for the shared costs of health-care problems should be involved in assuring preventive care is available and accessible.    

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