Friday, September 18, 2009

Flint and the Healthcare Debate

At the risk of touching off one of those silly battles in the comment section that I try to avoid, I can't help but pass along two news items that I ran across today. In the midst of the healthcare debate, Flint is cutting medical services in response to budget shortfalls.

Ron Fonger of The Flint Journal reports:
The new director of the Genesee County Health Department says he won't be able to save the McCree North Health and Human Services center after all.

Mark Valacak, named county health officer less than one week ago, had said it was a mistake to close the East Pierson Road clinic and vowed dig deeper in his proposed budget to find a way to keep McCree open.

But on Thursday, Valacak told the county Board of Commissioners that he could not find the money to make needed repairs to the building and provide staff to keep programs operating.

"I looked up and down in the budget," Valacak said. "There's just not a way without drastically reducing other services."

Regardless of your political persuasion, I think it's safe to say the country does have a problem when it comes to healthcare. (How's that for stating the obvious in a blandly apolitical manner?) Susan Heavey of Reuters reports:

Nearly 45,000 people die in the United States each year -- one every 12 minutes -- in large part because they lack health insurance and can not get good care, Harvard Medical School researchers found in an analysis released on Thursday.

"We're losing more Americans every day because of inaction...than drunk driving and homicide combined," Dr. David Himmelstein, a co-author of the study and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard, said in an interview with Reuters.

Overall, researchers said American adults age 64 and younger who lack health insurance have a 40 percent higher risk of death than those who have coverage.

You read stories like these and it's hard to believe we're the richest nation on Earth.

UPDATE: A reader points out a local effort to help the uninsured in the Flint area:

"I believe about 4,000 individuals enrolled in the Genesee Health Plan receive their primary care at the UM-Flint Wellness Center, where nurse practitioners (under the direction of a physician) provide routine medical care. Others are under the care of private physicians. The health plan protects working poor, students and a variety of struggling county residents – of course it isn’t a solution – it covers very rudimentary services, but it is effective in linking people to primary care, where diseases such as diabetes can be caught and treated before they become life-threatening. It isn’t a solution for everyone, but it does demonstrate – I think – how Flint continues to innovate, despite our many challenges."

Go here for a story about the plan on the Mott Foundation’s website.


  1. From what I understand, despite what we may hear from the protesters, McCree North was under utilized and any movement to keep it open was purely political. There's a perfectly fine health services center 4 miles to the south right on the bus route for the few who will miss it.

  2. Growing up in Flint, the one thing I became sure of is that the nation needs universal care. I have been a champion of the idea since my first vote cast at age 18, in 1980. Insurance companies eat up 35% of every health care dollar spent, and for what? For interminable waits on phone lines to speak to anyone? For denying coverage? Or for employing politicians' spouses?
    [sigh] I know you didn't want a debate. I just can't stand this.

  3. I couldn't agree with Sarah more about insurance companies...they are awful. So fix those. The majority of people in this country are happy with health care. That is why we have Medicare and Medicaid. And for those who make too much money to qualify for medicaid...we have the genesee health plan in genesee county that home owners fund. The biggest mess in the health care industry is the one currently run by the government (medicaid, medicare, and the VAs). Personally, I think everyone has the right to electricity and heat. Especially in the winter!!

  4. Singularly the best Healthcare Reform Article I have read to date. David Goldhill has also made a few radio and other print appearances. It's long, but worth it. In reading comments here and elsewhere one quote from this article rings over and over again "I suspect that our collective search for villains—for someone to blame—has distracted us and our political leaders from addressing the fundamental causes of our nation’s health-care crisis." Doctor's, insurance companies, drug companies...

  5. What company is going to spend the INSANE amounts of money it costs to develop, and test new drugs that have done wonders for diseases over the years if they are then forbidden from marketing and selling these drugs but are forced to give them away for free? That is why most of the drug discoveries come from US companies. One of the largest corporate charities in the US is the Partnership for Prescription Assistance- drug companies give away tons of medicine for free. I agree there needs to be control and regulation but companies have a right to make money on drugs they invest in and discover. Seems like there could be some balance.

  6. The Baucus bill is going to be pretty much hands-off for insurance companies, doctors, those hospitals that are profitable, and pharma companies. It however will impose a massive new tax on medical device companies.

    I work for a medical device company, so I've been following the present interpretations of the legal language so far.

    US device makers are highly competitive worldwide at present, mostly by superior design and high standards. Other countries have lower cost manufacturing, but we come close enough that our superior products are still preferred worldwide.

    The new tax, which will be imposed on all production even if intended for export, will raise many small and medium size companies' cost levels out of the competitive range. The largest companies mostly don't produce their own products; they have smaller companies do that for them. Thus they'll remain unaffected, simply by switching their sourcing to non-US suppliers.

    As things presently stand, the predictable outcome will be that we'll get universal health coverage at the cost of another industry lost to foreign competition.

    So I may have a lot more posting time in a year or two, when my employer goes bust.

  7. Well, I guess that it also is a fact that 3,355,000 Americans die each year with health insurance.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at