Category: Community Written by Jackie Berg
Mark Hall, vice president of sales, Health Alliance Plan
HAP and Priority Health provide employers the
opportunity to offer health benefits and control costs
Relief is in sight for Michigan employers with 10 – 250 employees, who now have access to a defined contribution health insurance plan that is simple, seamless and solvent.
Royal Oak-based iSelect Custom Benefit Store announced that Health Alliance Plan (HAP) and Priority Health will both begin to offer up to 10 iSelect custom health products to private exchange customers this month.
HAP estimates that it will welcome 5,000 – 10,000 new members with the introduction iSelect this year alone, according to Mark Hall, HAP vice president of sales, who is confident that small businesses and their employees will give the product high marks for its ease in implementation and simplicity.
“ISelect gives employers access — through their independent insurance agents —to multiple carriers and a menu of benefit options not available previously in the small and midsized employer market,” commented Denise Christy , iSelect founder and CEO.
With iSelect, employers will be able to control benefit costs and choose amongst carriers while employees can select and customize their benefits, according to Christy.
The program offers a win-win to business customers, which must provide health benefits to employees or pay a penalty as a part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which will be fully enacted in 2014.
Employers will make a single defined monthly payment, which simplifies the financial and budgeting aspects of offering a health plan.
Containing health annual health insurance costs is a priority for many business owners, who are paying 12 percent increases on group policies annually, according to Christy.
“Until now, there haven’t been many ways they could cut costs aside from increasing payroll deductibles or dropping benefits,” she states.
Defined contribution plans allow employers to set a budget for health care costs. Employees, allocated a pre-determined amount to spend on benefits in the exchange, will pay for their contributions through payroll deductions.
“We’ve been bombarded with positive comments about iSelect,” states Hall. “Agents love its customer-friendly technology platform, which helps employees choose and navigate benefit options that best fit their own unique needs.”
Business owners concerned about rate increases associated with carriers experiencing higher claim levels than anticipated, won’t have to worry that their employees will have to bear unanticipated cost increases, according to Hall who noted that the risk in the iSelect model is not different than what HAP offers with its defined benefit plans now.
“Future increases will be in line with the current market, but employers will be able to better buget for health care expenses going forward using this tools and allowing employees to make individual plan selections” stated Hall.
Powered by Liazon, iSelect’s custom benefits store’s exclusive private exchange partner, the benefits store makes it easy for enrollees to select and track their benefits costs and utilization.
As important, HAP customers will have the added benefit of HAP’s award-winning customer service support with iSelect.
“Independent iSelect agents and customers will have the power of HAP specialists behind them, who stand ready to provide customers with personal concierge-level support for up to a two-year period following their iSelect election.
Complying with ACA will not be entirely seamless for many primary care providers, who can expect to see a initial flood of new patients, many of whom may have been previously uninsured or unable to afford preventative care.
They will need to be prepared to face challenges associated with patient collections required in the iSelect model.
ISelect customers will have access to consumer-friendly tools and easy-to-understand wellness materials, according to its partners.
Providing scheduled preventative care and early interventions are critical components of health care reform aimed at creating healthier communities. Good Rx for us all.
Editor’s Note: Jackie Berg is the CMO of the Michigan Chronicle Newspaper and Publisher of LivingWELL Magazine.
Last Updated on Friday, 29 March 2013 08:48
Category: Community Written by Roz Edward, National Content Director
Against a backdrop of picketers, Gov. Rick Snyder stood alone on the stage -- save for a single chair -- at the Michigan Chronicle’s Pancakes and Politics breakfast at the Detroit Athletic Club on Thursday morning to address a receptive crowd of city and state officials, corporate leaders, entrepreneurs and educators. Snyder spoke frankly about a wide range of hotbed issues, with Detroit’s Emergency Manager and the Right To Work mandate being at the forefront. Real Times Media CEO and Michigan Chronicle publisher, Hiram Jackson noted that Thursday, March 28 marked the implementation of Michigan’s Right To Work law, and that he could not have foreseen that action when he began planning the event almost a year ago. “This can be a time of chaos and confusion, but I think of it as a time of clarity,” said Jackson.
Michigan is the 24th state to enact a Right to Work law.
The Pancakes and Politics forum is recognized as one of Detroit's premier platforms for providing opportunities for government, public and private sectors to dialogue and candidly discuss challenges and solutions for the City of Detroit and its residents.
Moderated by CBS Channel 62’s Carol Cain, Michigan’s 48th governor opened with candor and frankness. “Typically we just hear about the negatives,” remarked Snyder. “We shouldn’t avoid the negatives, we need to do better … but at the same time we should talk about the good things going on. The question is, 'Are our common goals the same?' ”
When asked about his stance on unions and RTW, Gov. Snyder replied, “I prefer [the term] Freedom to Work. I respect the unions. But, time has evolved and the issue is has their role evolved enough for what we have today. It’s not an issue about being anti-union, it’s about being pro worker.”
Gov. Snyder told Pancake and Politics participants that his office is already receiving positive feedback from companies around the nation who were previously opposed to moving operations to Michigan, but are now considering a presence in the state since the law’s enactment. “It would be a dumb business move for them to tell you that … but Michigan is more competitive [now].”
“The [RTW] issue was on the table, it was divisive and it was not going to go away, so I had to make a decision. That’s what happened. It’s done and it’s over with,” said Snyder
Snyder also informed the crowd of more than 300 that his administration was reversing labor trends by bringing jobs back to Michigan from Mexico.
“I am for a positive, forward-looking, inclusive Michigan, instead of looking backward at the good old days and not looking forward to a bright future,” he concluded before the Politics and Pancakes open question discussion.
When Michigan Chronicle senior editor Bankole Thompson asked the governor to address Detroit’s Emergency Financial management, Snyder responded that several factors had to be considered.
“I am a supportive partner here. First there is the financial stability of the city … and do we have short term cash management working appropriately … and do we have the long term management in hand.
It is [to establish] the platform for longer terms of success, and to move forward post-EM," said Snyder, remarking that significant improvement in city services, financial stability and a framework for long term management were the benchmarks of emergency managr success.
Last Updated on Friday, 29 March 2013 09:20
Category: Community Written by Emma Lockridge
Demetri Howser, 14, with Lisa Polk-Woolfolk, who was born prematurely and suffers from autism spectrum disorder and receives mental health services at NEGC.
The Northeast Guidance Center (NEGC) is expanding its mental health services to cover developmentally disabled children on Detroit’s east side with the ASPIRE program. ASPIRE covers youth who have been diagnosed with a lifelong condition or disability such as autism disorder, cognitive impairment, Down syndrome, multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy.
In conjunction with services, NEGC is in the process of raising $150,000 to build a playroom for the ASPIRE children at its Kelly Road location. Without ASPIRE, many children from lower economic families would not get the specialized support they need.
“We’re excited about ASPIRE because we will be able to connect people to services and resources, including respite, occupational/physical therapy, sensory motor integration, community living services, behavior management, and crisis intervention,” a representative stated. “There is a high demand for this type of integrated service which is non-existent right now.”
ASPIRE will provide assessments, support coordination and referrals to enable persons with developmental disabilities and their families to improve their quality of life. ASPIRE is an acronym for Advance Supports Provided Individually with Resource Education/Enabling/Empowering. If you’re interested in ASPIRE services, please call 1-877-242-4140.
Take care of your diabetes to keep your kidneys healthy
By Lindsay White
The National Kidney Foundation of Michigan (NKFM) is recognizing National Kidney Month this March by educating residents on the connection between diabetes and kidney disease. If you have diabetes, it’s important that you know about the link between diabetes and kidney disease, and what you can do to keep your kidneys healthy.
Kidney disease is most often caused by diabetes or high blood pressure (which many people with diabetes also have). About half of the people with diabetes also have high blood pressure. About one in three people with diabetes have kidney disease.
When you have diabetes, there is too much glucose (sugar) in your blood. This high blood glucose can damage the tiny blood vessels in your kidneys, so they have trouble filtering waste from your blood. High blood pressure also can damage these blood vessels.
Having diabetes does not mean you will get kidney disease. The better a person with diabetes keeps their blood sugar and blood pressure under control, the lower the chance of getting kidney disease.
Kidney disease usually develops over many years, and has few warning signs in the early stages, so many people with kidney disease don’t know they have it. That’s why it’s important to manage your diabetes and your blood pressure at all times.
People with diabetes can lower their chances of having diabetes-related health problems like kidney disease by managing the ABCs of diabetes — A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Here are other things you can do to keep your kidneys healthy when you have diabetes:
• Get your blood and urine tested at least once a year to measure how well your kidneys are working.
• Be physically active.
• If you smoke, get help to quit.
• Follow what your doctor says. Your doctor may ask you to see a special doctor to help with your kidney disease. Your doctor may also tell you to eat less salt or less protein.
• Take all medicines that your doctor tells you to take—even when you feel well.
Spread the word about the link between diabetes and kidney disease during National Kidney Month. There are many things you can do to take care of your kidneys and your overall health when you have diabetes.
For more information about preventing and controlling kidney disease, or details about local events and workshops during Kidney Month, please visit www.nkfm.org or call the NKFM at 800-482-1455.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 15:32
Category: Community - Original Written by AJ Williams, Chronicle Web Editor
The Shirt Box has announced its partnership with metro Detroit non-profit Heart 2 Hart Detroit to launch the “Soles for the City” campaign. Beginning April 1, the campaign will serve as a collection for new and gently used shoes and boots throughout the metro Detroit area to benefit Detroit’s homeless population.
Individuals are encouraged to donate new and gently used shoes and boots to The Shirt Box during business hours, Monday-Saturday, 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m., Thursday, 9:30 – 7 p.m. Shoes will then be collected by Heart 2 Hart Detroit and distributed to individuals in need. The Shirt Box is located at 32500 Northwestern Highway, Farmington Hills.
According to the National Survey of Programs and Services for Homeless Families, Michigan had an estimated 1,825 homeless families on a single night in 2011 and Detroit had the third highest number of both homeless individuals (11,913) and persons in families (6,149) in the country in 2008.
“Footwear is often overlooked,” said Heart 2 Hart Detroit founder Larry Oleinick. “There continues to be an ever-growing need for new and gently-used shoes and boots among the homeless population that we serve.”
Heart 2 Hart Detroit was established to address the needs of homeless individuals living in the Detroit Metropolitan area. Deliveries of clothing, shoes, packed lunches and toiletries are made three times a week to Hart Plaza and the surrounding area and shelters.
Heart 2 Hart Detroit volunteers pride themselves on providing more than tangible items to the individuals they meet. The organization places an emphasis on building relationships with the people they serve by starting conversations and offering words of encouragement, with a goal of establishing a sense of consistency within a community that has little to rely on.
“The seasons are changing and as we begin to clean out our closet and tuck away our winter gear it is important that we remember how much another person could benefit from the shoes that we may no longer have any use for,” said Ron Elkus, co-owner of The Shirt Box.
For more information about the Soles for the City shoe drive, contact The Shirt Box at (248) 851-6770.
For more information about Heart 2 Hart Detroit please visit www.h2hd.org or call (248) 884-4434.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 15:37
Category: Community Written by Nancy Derringer
Alok Sharma analyzes data for a living. In 2010, he had a client, a politician, who was running for office and wanted to know if it was worth his time to campaign door-to-door in Detroit’s high-rise apartment buildings. Sharma thought the answer might be found by running a high-rise address through the Qualified Voter File, a public document of every registered voter in Michigan. He chose his own: the Kales Building, with 18 floors overlooking Grand Circus Park and 116 one- and two-bedroom apartments.
It is, Sharma said, full of young professionals like him, as well as empty-nesters — just the type of middle-class people who are likely to be engaged, active voters. When Sharma looked, the building was fully occupied.
Yet he found only nine names in the Qualified Voter File, counting his own.
With Detroit facing a city election this year under the shadow of a newly appointed state emergency manager, Bridge magazine performed Sharma’s experiment with six other buildings in Detroit’s hot neighborhoods of downtown, Midtown and Corktown.
The results, while not as dramatic as Sharma’s at the Kales Building, show voter participation rates far below 64.7 percent — Michigan’s turnout in the 2012 general election — and even below the city’s turnout of 50 percent.
LARGE BUILDINGS, SMALL ELECTORATES
What’s more, there’s a widely agreed-upon reason for this self-disenfranchisement:Not politics, but the high cost of auto insurance. In insurance, a Detroit address is costly
Vince Keenan, founder of Publius.org, a Michigan voter-education and civic-participation program, says the link between insurance rates and one’s registered address is “the most well-known single fact” about voting in Detroit. And he doesn’t like it.
“It’s an unintended consequence of Motor Voter,” he said, or the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which tied voter registration to one’s driver’s license.
“It was very successful at getting people registered, especially in Michigan, because we drive so much. But by marrying the two, we have to think about (the auto-insurance issue), and we shouldn’t have to. For a voter to have to worry about where their car insurance is, is stupid. We’ve made it easier to commit community fraud, where you’re living and working in a community that you’re not voting in, than to commit insurance fraud.”
Keenan knows the price of honesty from experience. In 2002, he moved two blocks — from one block north of Eight Mile Road, in Ferndale, to one block south, in Detroit, and saw his annual premium jump from $1,700 to $3,700.
“We need voters in Detroit who are active and engaged about it. Where you choose to vote should not be governed by your car insurance, period,” he said.
DETROITERS PAY HOW MUCH MORE?
Michigan residents pay the eighth-highest prices for auto insurance in the country, according to the Insurance Institute of Michigan. But Detroit residents can pay even significantly more than that; as Keenan discovered, double or even triple what suburbanites pay. No one knows for sure how many people live in the city who carry driver’s licenses with addresses outside it. City residents, though, are sure the problem is widespread.
“Everybody talks about it, obviously it’s something a lot of people are doing,” said one 25-year-old man we’ll call Scott.
Scott lives downtown, but is registered to vote in a suburb west of Detroit. The same address is on his driver’s license, and his insurance company believes that’s where his car is parked. He is politically active in Detroit, and has worked for candidates. But when he does the math, he has to ask himself a question:
“Is my vote worth the few thousand dollars it would cost me? No campaign (from a Detroit candidate) could ever convince a significant number of people to suffer that pain.”
The Insurance Institute of Michigan reports the average Michigan auto-insurance customer pays $1,073.52. IIM’s Pete Kuhnmuench said his group does not calculate separate figures for individual urban areas, due to wide disparities between insurers’ quotes and discounts. The State of Michigan also does not provide data on city-level averages.
If detected by their insurers, people like Scott could face consequences ranging from cancellation of their policies to recovery of the higher premiums they should be paying.
INFLUX OF PEOPLE, BUT WHERE ARE THE VOTERS?
Amid the catastrophic financial news coming out of Detroit in recent months, the in-migration of younger people has been a bright spot — and a national story. A 2011 New York Times story proclaimed an influx of the “young and entrepreneurial” downtown, describing a pair of 37-year-old men yearning for apartments in the nearby Broderick Tower. At the recent Detroit Policy Conference, held by the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, keynote speaker Matt Cullen touted the 97 percent occupancy rate of downtown and Midtown apartments, with new construction in the works and the beginnings of a vibrant, tech-based entrepreneurial culture in the same neighborhoods.
These new residents have helped breathe life into the central city, but, at the same time, many are depriving themselves of the simplest tool of democracy — their vote.
Studio 1 Apartments on Woodward Avenue offers “urban living at its best,” according to its website, “an artsy, safe, vibrant place to live, study, work, play and proudly call home.”
Out of 124 units, just 30 people voted in the November 2012 election.
The precise number of voting-age adults living in those buildings isn’t public record, and changes often.
But using census data, Bridge was able to calculate a rough estimate of voter participation in these high-density units, based on how many votes were cast in the November 2012 election, divided by the number of units multiplied by the city’s approximate adults per household — 1.38.
The result was 32 percent. Even assuming the leanest possible occupancy of one adult per unit, the rate only rises to 45 percent.
To be sure, voting rates in cities can be less than impressive. A recent municipal primary in Los Angeles, for instance, turned out only 21 percent of registered voters. But 2013 promises to be a pivotal year in Detroit, with a mayoral race shaping up, as well as the first city council elected by district in nearly a century, following a rewrite of the city’s charter. Detroit residents have more reasons than ever to vote where they live.
CAN AUTO RATES BE THAT HIGH?
But how much would voting cost the many who now sit out elections? While rates vary widely from company to company, and from customer to customer, the state published, in 2008, a rate-comparison survey, covering several different customer profiles — married, single, with and without children.
It shows customers with Detroit addresses pay sharply more than those in other metro areas, and even cities like Warren, which abuts Detroit on the other side of Eight Mile Road.
The rates are an irritant to those registered in Detroit, many of whom say they don’t blame the scofflaws, mainly because they were once scofflaws themselves.
“When I first moved down here, I kept my permanent address at my mom’s house,” said Peter Van Dyke, 31, who owns two condos in the Midtown area, living in one, renting the other.
“When I lived in the Park Shelton, and worked one mile away, I drove from one 24-hour secure parking structure to another, where I would leave my car,” Van Dyke explained. “And the rate was triple. My car spends 24 hours a day in a secure parking garage. It’s probably one of the safest cars in Michigan.”
He was eventually able to negotiate an affordable rate with his agent, but it took some hard bargaining, relying on goodwill built through years of business with his family, to put in place. It’s not something everyone can do.
CITY’S VOTER RECORDS QUESTIONABLE
Detroit had, as of the November 2012 election, 568,854 registered voters, although Janice Winfrey, the city clerk, believes about 100,000 of those are inactive, individuals who have left the city and vote elsewhere.
Inactive voters may remain on the rolls for years. Two long-gone ex-Detroiters who appear in the Qualified Voter File as Park Shelton residents are former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his wife, Carlita, who very publicly moved to Texas after he resigned in 2008.
Winfrey said her office can only purge voters in cases of death or if at least three mailings are returned as undeliverable, at which point they’re put on a countdown and, after two federal elections, may be removed.
Winfrey doesn’t see the self-disenfranchisement of the city’s new residents as a widespread problem, however.
While she’s troubled by the idea of potential voters taking themselves out of the pool, “based on our numbers and what we see on Election Day, no, it’s not a problem.”
DETROITER SAYS AUTO BARRIER CAN BE SCALED
Matt Clayson thinks it’s a problem, however. One of the roughly 30 conveners of Declare Detroit, a political movement speaking for many of these new arrivals, sees it as fundamentally undermining the process.
“Any healthy political environment needs an inflow of new ideas and perspectives,” Clayson said. “When those new ideas don’t engage in the process, it makes it difficult to have representation that addresses their needs.”
Clayson, like most young Detroiters, is well-acquainted with the insurance problem. But he thinks it’s not as big as many think it is.
“There are some myths around insurance rates in the city,” he said.
“If you shop around, you can find very reasonable rates. Maybe not Brighton rates, but at the same time, it won’t be a 100 percent increase.”
Clayson, who lives in the Indian Village neighborhood northeast of downtown, found his coverage through Progressive, and pays about $2,000 a year to insure two cars. That’s about 20 percent more than he would pay outside the city, he estimates.
“To me, an hour shopping around is worth the right to vote in Detroit, and to make one’s voice heard,” he said.
Others think the problem may be one of demography. Younger people move often, and often don’t feel rooted to a place — and hence, inclined to vote on local issues — until they settle down.
“When (residents buy rather than rent), people take more pride in the property and in the city,” said Ryan Cooley, owner of O’Connor Real Estate in Corktown and, along with his parents and brother, an investor in the steadily gentrifying neighborhood.
“People move in, test the waters, and then they end up coming back and buying. Then they participate,” Cooley said.
In the meantime, their non-participation does them no favors.
Former state representative Tim Bledsoe, who left office in 2012 to return to his work teaching political science at Wayne State University, remembers walking the Detroit part of his district, using registered-voter lists to find homes with likely voters.
“You’d see a car in a driveway with political stickers on it, but the lists said no registered voter lived there,” he said. “It’s frustrating, You’re looking for voters, you know there are people there who are politically engaged.”
What’s more, he said, the shortage of younger people in voter rolls “shapes the thinking of politicians. Any politician campaigning in Detroit who knows what he or she is doing, ends up focusing on seniors.”
Editor’s Note: Nancy Derringer s a regular contributor to Bridge magazine, an editorial partner of the Michigan Chronicle. Derringer has been a writer, editor and teacher in metro Detroit for seven years.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 15:30
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