Coordinating care

MARQUETTE – Bringing health care services to people instead of them going to five places is a way to streamline – and therefore improve – accessibility to people most in need.

That’s a message James K. Haveman, Michigan director of community health, wants to get across to Upper Peninsula residents.

Haveman visited The Mining Journal office Monday.

“We’re heavily invested with the U.P. Health Plan,” Haveman said. “It fits well within the whole senior message the governor did last week. We’re an aging state.”

UPHP, located in Marquette, is a provider service organization for health care.

Gov. Rick Snyder, Haveman said, talked about health and wellness, volunteers, elder abuse and what can be accomplished to make Michigan a more “age-friendly” state.

Haveman mentioned the new Healthy Michigan Plan, which provides health care benefits to residents at a low cost. According to the state of Michigan website at www.michigan.gov/healthymiplan, Individuals between the ages of 19 and 64 who have an income at or below 13 percent of the federal poverty level ($16,000 for a single person or $33,000 for a family of four) are eligible. They also cannot be enrolled or qualify for Medicare or Medicaid.

Hospitalization, mental health services, prescription drugs and other items are covered through the plan.

“Already 8,500 people in the U.P. have signed up for the Michigan plan,” Haveman said. “This is (for) the folks who are working poor, to get insurance, which I think is a great start for the U.P. They are ahead of the sign-up schedule that we had kind of projected.”

He also mentioned the MI Health Link project (mihealth.org), which integrates care for individuals dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. The programs will be integrated to a single health care delivery model and increase access to home and community-based services, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health.

“The U.P.’s going to be first out of the gate on this,” Haveman said, with the four regions being the Upper Peninsula, Wayne County, Macomb County and southwest Michigan.

The Upper Peninsula Health Plan will be the responsible party in this region, said Dennis H. Smith, UPHP president and chief executive officer, with other collaborators such as long-term care facilities to help needy residents.

“About 40 percent of them have behavioral health issues,” Smith said, “the other ones, maybe, are all by themselves, so it’s kind of coordinating all their physical and mental needs.”

If they can be home, that will be considered, and those needing long-term care will be handled so their costs are managed appropriately and quality of care is kept high, he said.

“We’ll take care of that whole umbrella,” Smith noted. “That’ll be our responsibility with the partners that will be there.”

Haveman said the costs for people both on Medicaid and Medicare total $300 million.

“There historically have been two systems of care,” he said. “What we’re going to be doing here is funneling that money through Dennis’s group, the integrated care organization, and they’re going to coordinate that care so it’s more seamless.”

The savings, he said, can be shared and possibly directed to alternative programs.

Many resources have been allocated to physical health, behavior health and home care, but the disabled and mobility-challenged are the most likely to fall through the cracks, Smith said.

“That population really has a small voice at times, depending on where you are in the state,” noted Smith, who said groups such as the Marquette-based Superior Alliance for Independent Living has been helping in that aspect.

More resources will be put into the Meals On Wheels program so Michigan will be a “no-wait state,” Haveman said, plus more health clinics will be put into mental health programs.

Haveman said the U.P. thinks regionally, which helps area health care.

“You can go to some parts of the state, and the public health people from one county to another don’t know each other,” he said. “Up here, people know each other. People travel together. They have to. It’s survival. It’s because people don’t have the resources.”

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.