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Michigan's Minority Health Disparities Affect State's Entire Health Care System

Armen Hareyan's picture

"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.

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Theinstitute is seeking to "end those unequal health outcomes" through"education, research and advocacy ... to identify causes and cures sothat, ultimately, all residents of Michigan benefit from a healthiercitizenry," Nedd writes. In a recent report, the institute examined andranked 21 Michigan-based health care plans and the Department of Veterans Affairs.According to that report, people enrolled in Medicaid managed careplans often encountered restrictions on coverage for the most commonlyprescribed treatments for cardiovascular disease, asthma, diabetes andsome mental health conditions -- the top four diseasesdisproportionately affecting blacks. The report identified therestrictions as higher copayments, requiring physicians to prescribeanother treatment first, requiring patients to receive specialpermission from their health plans to obtain a prescription medicationor coverage for only certain drugs on a health plan's formulary.

"Whenhealth 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 theproblem by pairing the interests of patients, employers, providers andinsurers to make all residents healthier. He writes that "healthierpeople would mean less financial strain on the state's health caresystem" (Nedd, Grand Rapids Press, 10/27).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser WeeklyHealth Disparities Report,search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Weekly HealthDisparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of TheHenry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.