Michigan’s Minority Health Disparities Affect State’s Entire Health Care System, Opinion Piece Says
"Michigan has a problem. It's a national dilemma, as well: African-Americans tend to be sicker as a whole than whites," Khan Nedd, chair of the board of directors of the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute, writes in a Grand Rapids Press opinion piece.
The institute is seeking to "end those unequal health outcomes" through "education, research and advocacy ... to identify causes and cures so that, ultimately, all residents of Michigan benefit from a healthier citizenry," Nedd writes. In a recent report, the institute examined and ranked 21 Michigan-based health care plans and the Department of Veterans Affairs. According to that report, people enrolled in Medicaid managed care plans often encountered restrictions on coverage for the most commonly prescribed treatments for cardiovascular disease, asthma, diabetes and some mental health conditions -- the top four diseases disproportionately affecting blacks. The report identified the restrictions as higher copayments, requiring physicians to prescribe another treatment first, requiring patients to receive special permission from their health plans to obtain a prescription medication or coverage for only certain drugs on a health plan's formulary.
"When health plans make it hard for patients to obtain the drugs they need, patients may give up trying to get them, which means they get sicker," Nedd writes, adding that the institute is working to address the problem by pairing the interests of patients, employers, providers and insurers to make all residents healthier. He writes that "healthier people would mean less financial strain on the state's health care system" (Nedd, Grand Rapids Press, 10/27).