Healthy attitude

In a rare show of solidarity, the Detroit City Council has united to ask Gov. Jennifer Granholm to find a way to make health care affordable for everyone in Michigan.

It is an issue of particular importance to Detroit. About 180,000 Detroiters, or 19 percent, of Detroit’s 925,000 residents currently have no health insurance, according to the council. An estimated 1.1 million of Michigan’s 10 million residents, 11 percent, are uninsured, according to the Michigan League of Human Services, a nonprofit that advocates for low-income residents.

The council two weeks ago unanimously passed a resolution introduced by Councilman Ken Cockrel after he held talks with representatives from two nonprofits, Michigan Legal Services and the Michigan Universal Healthcare Access Network (MichUHCAN). The resolution calls on Granholm “to establish a commission to study the financing of health care in Michigan and to make recommendations to change financing so that all people in Michigan shall have health insurance in a system which is affordable, cost efficient, provides comprehensive benefits, promotes prevention and early intervention, eliminates disparities in access and in mental health care, provides continuity and is easy to use.”

Granholm’s reaction to the resolution? As of Monday, her office had yet to see it, according to spokeswoman Liz Boyd, who asked News Hits to fax her a copy. We obliged.

If Granholm is serious about providing affordable health care to all of Michigan, there is a model. In June, Maine Gov. John E. Baldacci signed into law the so-called Dirigo Health Plan. (For semanticists, dirigo is Latin for “I lead.” It is Maine’s state motto, which, in this case at least, is entirely appropriate because the law is the first of its kind in the United States.)

The Dirigo plan, which faced fierce opposition from hospitals, insurers and some employers, provides subsidies to low-income workers. A cap on costs is a key component.

“Cost controls on hospital, physician and insurer prices play a fundamental role in sustaining affordability of the plan,” writes Joseph P. Ditre, executive director of Consumers for Affordable Health Care in Maine.

Granholm might want to make note of the fact that Baldacci made passage of this legislation a linchpin of his last campaign. So far, however, our governor has been cool to the idea of backing universal health care coverage, according to Marjorie Mitchell, director of MichUCAN.

Although health insurers and their compadres can throw loads of money at legislators, the growing “crisis” is changing the equation. Says Mitchell, “So many people are being affected, we are starting to see support from a critical number of people.”

Her group will decide this week whether to begin a campaign to gain similar resolutions from city councils across the state in an attempt to increase public awareness and gain Lansing’s attention.

If so, they might want to make sure to learn a lesson from Detroit’s efforts and make sure that, if the resolutions are passed, Granholm’s office actually gets to see them. News Hits’ fax machine can only do so much.

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