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Posted on Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 5:56 a.m.

Ypsilanti asked to commit $1,000, join Washtenaw Health Initiative

By Katrease Stafford

Nearly 29,000 individuals in Washtenaw County are without health insurance and the Washtenaw Health Initiative, a volunteer group organized to prepare the county for the full implementation of the federal health care reform, said it knows the way to increase access to insurance.


Daniel Vogt said he would support a resolution making the Ypsilanti City Council a WHI charter member.

Jeffrey Smith |

Washtenaw Health Initiative leaders asked the Ypsilanti City Council Tuesday night to consider becoming a charter member and giving a “token amount” of money, $1,000, toward the cause.

In June, Norm Herbert, retired treasurer for the University of Michigan and one of the initiative’s leaders, pitched a similar idea to the Ann Arbor City Council, asking the city to contribute $20,000 over a two-year period.

Tom Biggs, a volunteer for the group, asked the Ypsilanti council to donate a far less amount of money than Ann Arbor in light of the budget restraints and cuts the city is facing.

“If you can find you can do some token amount, it sends an important message that the community is involved with it,” he said. “No matter how small it is, we want to make sure we’re sending that message.”

The WHI’s mission, Biggs said, is to improve the health of low-income, uninsured and Medicaid recipients in Washtenaw County by bringing together organizations to coordinate and leverage resources, generate innovative ideas and consider opportunities to work together.

Last July, the University of Michigan Health System, St. Joseph Mercy Health System and the Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation, a nonprofit supported by U-M and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, announced they would collaborate to study ways to handle the influx of patients expected as a result of the health care reform.

Research conducted by the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation discovered that in 2010, 69.9 percent of the county's 340,961 residents had private health care insurance. Close to 12 percent of residents were covered by Medicare, 11.3 percent were covered by Medicaid and approximately 2,475 individuals were eligible for Medicaid but not enrolled.

The WHI is estimating that when the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act go into effect in 2014, 23,866 uninsured individuals in the county may become insured via Medicaid or health insurance exchanges and an additional 34,545 primary care visits will occur.

In addition to a lack of access to primary care, dental care access is very limited for uninsured adults and adult Medicaid recipients. Few dentists accept new Medicaid patients and many individuals end up utilizing the hospital emergency departments for acute dental issues, Biggs said.

"Only 15 percent accept Medicaid and only 8 percent accept new cases," he said.

Nearly 4,700 emergency room visits are a result of dental related issues, according to Biggs.

"That's not dental care," he said. "That's pain management."

Biggs said the initiative is already making a difference.

In March, reported the initiative helped 700 residents receive and keep their coverage and state assistance.

Workers Tiffany Gore and Liz Ahrens helped more than 200 single adults who were close to losing their Medicaid coverage keep it. They also helped more than 200 eligible residents apply for food stamps and helped another 261 people apply for "medical assistance," 69 for disability help and 22 for emergency relief.

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Mayor Pro Tem Lois Richardson said the WHI is an initiative the city should be involved in.

Biggs expects those numbers to increase with the additional support of Ypsilanti, along with the rest of the county.

“It’s a tremendous effort and most importantly we’re getting things done,” Biggs said.

Biggs said $100,000 has already been committed by the 32 charter member organizations already involved in the initiative. Members include the Corner Health System, Planned Parenthood of Mid and South Michigan, United Way of Washtenaw County and more.

Mayor Paul Schreiber said although cuts were made to the human services department in 2004, he believes the WHI is a “special organization” worth receiving funds. Schreiber stated he was impressed with the fact WHI has more than 70 participants and 40 organizations involved.

“ The list of organizations already involved is impressive," Schreiber said. "I think it will be well worth our money to do this."

The council proposed creating a resolution for the August meeting to show support for the initiative.

Katrease Stafford covers the city of Ypsilanti for Reach her at 734-623-2548 or You can also follow her on Twitter.


Rudra N Rebbapragada

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 2:39 a.m.

I like this initiative as the organization knows the individuals who have problems and helps them to find real solutions. WHI is providing a great service to uninsured people who have real health related problems. However, the term 'uninsured' is not the same as 'sickness'. Disease and ill-health are not entirely related to the issue of Insurance. We have to understand those factors that contribute to ill-health and both insured and uninsured have to seek the condition called good, and positive health.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 11:12 p.m.

Surprise yourself: "ObamaCare is the Wrong Answer. Doctors explain the real solutions for putting patients first. "

dading dont delete me bro

Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 4:32 p.m.

yeah, great idea to ask a financially strapped city for money. especially when they're cuttting fd and pd and other services. (ok, maybe not filling as workers retire, but same thing) not

ypsi 1

Tue, Jul 24, 2012 : 3:42 p.m.

Comment is silly, as usual. $1000 token from Ypsi is affordable and shows official support for a great cooperation of health care sources. If you're this shortsighted you should not blog.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.

Obamacare is going to fix this in about a year and we'll all have access to "good, affordable health care". Those who have it will pay for those who don't through higher taxation. It will be utopia and the culmination of all of our dreams................I can hardly wait to see how many are dumped from private insurance into crummy exchanges with long waiting lists. Except our elected officials will continue to get their Caddilac plans on our dime with no waiting times or denial of service.


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 10:30 p.m.

Obamacre has already proven that all it will do is increase the cost to all of us. Just look at this at its most basic level. If you add people to the pool of insured, who pays? If we add a large group to the ranks of insured, where is this cost going to come from? The health insurance carriers are not going to add members for no cost. The cost will be covered by us direct, as insurance holders or from government. In this case, government. Thus, costs go up.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 9:02 p.m.

Jack - so you are Ok with carmmy insurance for you and your family while our elected officials get the best? You don't mind waiting while they get first class service? If it was so good they would take it too, buut it isn't. It will cost you more to obtain second rate insurance while paying more for yours and subsidizing those who won't work because it is more cost effective to be on the government dole. The idea is to get us all to the same level and eliminate the middle class; this is one step. Attacking the 1%ers is another step so eventually the ruling class will be the 1%ers and everyone else will be the same; poor and with second rate insurance. This is what you're leaving your family, kids, and grand kids Jack an dyou seen to be Ok with that. Why work hard when the tax rates will make it not worth it. Be happy with just getting by like the rest of your fellow citizens while the ruling class goes on elaborate tax payer vacations, has different bands come to the White house to entertain them like court jesters, and golf and dine at the finest country clubs. That's the way this path eventually ends, study just a little history; there are way more counties on that path than the one the USA used to be on and now we are heading towards that path............Whatever happened to the sky was the limit if you were willing to work hard and smart?


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 3:26 p.m.

Unfortunately you are right. This is the beginning of a sad day for the US, our future and our growing debt. Current leadership only cares about vilifying those that worked hard for what they have. In fact, they are encouraging those that do not have to take more from the government and wait for the next election, where those that have will be paying more taxes. Obamacare will sink us financially.

Jack Campbell

Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 2:48 p.m.

And what is the GOP doing to bring us healthcare? Yeah, thats right, absolutely nothing. At least Obamacare got people with existing conditions and children some help.

tom swift jr.

Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 10:37 a.m.

That should be, I believe, the "Corner Health Center", not the Corner Health System.