Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Health care concerns in Michigan
by Dr. Sanjay Gupta
Chief Medical Correspondent

Today, I spent the day in snowy Michigan. Truth is I love it here. You see, Michigan is home for me. I grew up here. We lived in several cities around the state, including Dearborn, Livonia, Novi, Ann Arbor and Chelsea. My parents still live in Michigan and my only sibling, a brother who is 10 years younger, lived here till just a couple of years ago. So, my heart is still in Michigan, which is why it is difficult to watch what has happened here over the past several years. Sitting in the National Coney Island diner in Warren, I couldn't believe the number of people who came over to me to just chat. Many had lost their jobs recently. And, it seems, almost all of them were concerned about health insurance.

As things stand now, more than a million people in Michigan aren't covered at all. And, for those who have insurance, the premiums are starting to become prohibitively high. While nearly 70 percent of the people who have insurance get it through their employer, even that is in jeopardy as more and more employers are leaving the state. So, how do you solve this problem? Is the answer to abolish employer-based coverage or to force insurance companies to become more competitive when vying for big corporation's business? In Michigan, this is the most important domestic issue voters say they face (Dr. Gupta discusses the candidate's health care plans - watch video here).

I am committed to making sure you have the knowledge you need about the health care crisis in this country as the presidential election approaches. Make sure to tune in for my special "Broken Government Critical Condition" on Thursday, January 31 at 11 p.m. ET.

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I will start by saying that health care issue is the biggest concern for millions of Americans as we head towards downturn in economy. I personally have friends who are not eligible for Medicaid/Medicare programs and also their employers do not cover them much, so they will have to spend their earnings into health insurance or take the risk of not having health insurance. I am not sure if abolishing health insurance by the employer is a good idea, but I think making the insurance companies competitive with pricing might lighten the burden on the employer. In addition, what is the solution for those people who will never be eligible for health insurance because they have a pre condition like cancer?
Healthcare costs in this country are out of control. I would much rather a 2-5% tax increase than the $400-$500 a month I pay for my family thru my employer, not counting copays and deductibles. Support HR 656!
On a side note, I work in medical billing and am basically trying to promote a bill that would essentially put me out of a job, but I feel that a career change is a very small price to pay to ensure that my children have a healthcare system that is not broken!
I think another big problem too...that most people don't realize..is that a lot of college students are forgoing health insurance too. That's actually one of the major factors that will influence whether or not I go back to graduate school. Now, a lot of people ask me...well, why not get health insurance through the school? Because its not even considered health insurance! For instance. I have a friend who had to have his appendix taken out. He ended up having complications from the surgery as well. Not only was the first surgery not covered (they paid about a 1000), the second surgery wasn't covered at all because you get one chance to get things fixed. Any extra surgeries are not paid for at all. So he was stuck with a major bill. And hes not alone. After graduating, the only way i could get insurance was to COBRA under my parents...500/month. NOW, what college student can afford that!? And I don't qualify for state stuff because I have a car..which is 10 years old..but still, they expect you to sell everything to get insurance. Lastly, I am sad and frustrated that my PhD decisions rest on whether or not I will have health insurance. THAT IS JUST SAD for this country. The President/Politicians are complaining that the US output of graduate degrees is lagging. Well, maybe they should fix the health insurance problem and more people would go. Another important thing to remember...costs for everything is rising...but the graduate school stipend does not. Thankfully I am employed as an Chemical Engineer now so I have great insurance for a low cost. But still, I hope I can pursue my graduate dream. :)
I was born and raised in Michigan, and still have three adult children and grandchildren who live there. My husband was offered a job in Arizona. In Arizona, the economy is prosperous. People moving here, spending, spending, spending. When I go home to Michigan the real world sets in. My youngest son was off work for almost two years. He is working, but at half the pay he made in his old job. His wife has a small business that is going under because of the economy. My daughter had a choice to work for considerably less pay or lose her job. We pay $800.00 a month for health insurance for one family, another family is about to lose their health insurance because the business owner can no longer afford to provide it. It will be an impossible financial burden on us to pay health insurance for both families They can’t move to another state. The housing market is so poor they can’t sell their homes. Jobs don’t exist. I worry constantly about their future. My husband can retire but we don’t have the financial ability to help them if he retires. It’s not just us. Everyone has a story to tell.
Dear Dr. Sanjay Gupta,

The problem with the health insurance structure is that it is too market oriented. Those who lose a job, have no back-up plan. If you watch the health care spending over the course of last seven years, there is a steady increase. Why and what does this figure reflect? Does it mean that people use health services more, or is it based on the increase of health care expenses or does it reflect the health insurance market?
WHen it comes to the local state HMO's, the system is highly determined how well the economy runs to maintain a health care facility. Similar like the real estate market booms, when the economy booms, the health care industry will boom also along in this symmetrically. In turn, this will maintain a good health care facility, better training of health care providers etc.

The back up plan should be based on goverment funded socialized form of HMO or a national Medicaid/Medicare plan. But these people you have mentioned in your home-town don't qualify, because they don't meet the criteria, for example (what poverty level?). So these criteria for qualifications need to be changed also.

THe best way to analyze and make more sense of this issue is to really unravel the health care system on the economic and administrative level.
I live in Michigan and health care is always a concern. Copays and deductibles keep rising while jobs and hours fade away. I couldn't pay for health care while on layoff as it would have taken 90% of my unemployment - nothing would have been left to feed my family, pay for the home or utilities, let alone any copays, etc.
I see many people going to school or work who are sick - they can't afford to go to the doctor. They get others sick and it just gets worse from there. One can't afford to go to the doctor and miss a day of work. Truly sad. Michigan needs alot of change and a major one is health care.
thanks for your blog.
The health insurance issue is such a nightmare! I can't believe everyone doesn't pull together and get something done! My husband and I are 56, good health (I think, I can't afford to go to the dr.)....our insurance premium is almost $700.00 a month and that will go up on our birthdays (usually about $75.00 pr year...) It's $5,000.00 deductable per person...I can't afford to go have my yearly checkups because I have to make sure I pay my monthly premium is paid! My husband will never be able to retire, because of this issure...I guess we can dig into our retirement we put back for Years! I don't know what the solution is...but this is a cancer that is growing and has GOT to be taken care of! I sure don't know where to start...we can call out congressman, but they have their insurance provided for them...so they have no idea how scary this is! AND we live in the USA... LETS TAKE CARE OF THINGS OVERHERE! Thanks for letting me vent!
I will be on your program this Thursday night ... our baby Matthew was born 2 months premature w/ a rare four fold heart defect.
By the time he was 10 months old, 1.9 million had been paid out by the insurance company ..
and his lifetime cap was 2 million.

We were ineligible to purchase private insurance.. even w/ the HIPPA laws...
we had no good options.

Thank God my husband's employer raised the lifetime cap to 5 million just in the nick of time.
Otherwise, we would be in another place right now.

It was a hell I hope to never re~live... but I fear running out again b/c Matthew will need heart surgeries for the rest of his life.

I agree w/ everyone that has commented.

Nothing will bankrupt you faster than a catastrophic health crisis ~ something that you can't help and you don't choose.

It's not like when you go to the vet and realize you can't afford the medical care... and put your pet to sleep. That is simply not an option when it comes to human life.

During Matthew's last surgery at Stanford, the bed alone was $26,000 a day... paid.
No wonder people run out of health insurance.
I live in Florida and am uninsured. So are my children, aged 15 and 18. Premiums for me as an individual cost $500.00 per month with a $2,000 deductible- WHO CAN AFFORD that with taxes and mortgages out of control?
My son is going to high school and works parttime therefore does not qualify for health insurance- my daughter is too young to work. My husband is 67 and on Medicare. I have a history of a breast tumor and hypertention so these preexisting conditions are excluded from affordable coverage .

I am self employed and cannot even apply for healthcare coverage as a small employer until Aug 2008. Even with a discount off of fee for service (30%), I am faced with choosing between paying for a technical school for my graduating senior or getting a MRI. You guessed right- I am postponing the MRI, and the stress test to ensure my sons future.

Healthcare insurance needs major reform.

I am middle class and a professional consultant with degree from UF.

Wake up- with the recession looming and unemployment rates escalating- millions of the professional upper middle class will be joining me.

What is happening in America healthcare is a DOMESTIC CRISIS....
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