Back to school: Are children ready to learn?

For children to succeed in school, they must go to school “ready to learn” –  rested, fed and healthy. But how many children will start the school year with a toothache or other dental problem?

According to the Department of Community Health’s 2011 -2012 Count Your Smiles survey, the number is likely pretty high.

Survey highlights include:

  • Nearly one in 14 (7%) Michigan third-grade children were in need of immediate dental care for signs or symptoms of pain, infection, or swelling.
  • Over one in four Michigan third-grade children, 27.1%, have untreated dental disease.
  • Untreated dental disease was highest in the Detroit area at 41.9%, with a higher prevalence of African American, Arab, and Hispanic school children with untreated dental disease. 
  • Oral pain can impact a child’s learning, nutrition, and sleeping. Over one in nine parents of third-grade children, 11.3%, reported their child had a toothache when biting or chewing in the past six months.

Unfortunately dental caries (cavities) remain the No. 1 chronic disease in children, despite the fact they are preventable. Our children’s oral health has not been a high enough priority.  While Healthy Kids Dental will expand to Kalamazoo and Macomb counties in October, the children in Kent, Oakland and Wayne Counties will remain left out.

Third grade reading success has been in the news a lot lately with legislation under consideration to retain children in third grade if they do not demonstrate proficiency in reading. Based on the statistics from the Count Your Smiles survey, it should not be surprising that many children are unable to concentrate in school due to untreated dental disease. Research links oral health to academic performance not only from the ability to concentrate and learn, but also from the number of missed days of school due to dental issues.

The Kids Count in Michigan Data Profile 2013  provides the following snapshots for children not proficient in reading at the beginning of fourth grade for the areas not covered by Healthy Kids Dental:

  • Kent County – 27%
  • Oakland County – 24.9%
  • Wayne County – 43.7%
  • Detroit – 60.1%

As a state, we need to focus on the underlying causes that prevent children from learning to read rather than punishing the child and family. Improving the oral health of our children by expanding Healthy Kids Dental statewide would be a great place to start.

– Jan Hudson

Healthy Michigan plan enrollment tops 275,000

Enrollment in the Healthy Michigan Plan as of June 2 totals 276,622. This is truly remarkable considering the program was implemented just over two months ago on April 1. Genesee County, at 98.5%, has enrolled the highest percentage of those potentially eligible. What a great achievement.

The Healthy Michigan Plan is Michigan’s unique Medicaid expansion plan. It provides comprehensive healthcare coverage to Michigan’s low-income uninsured residents. To be eligible for the program, an individual must be between the ages of 19 and 64, not currently eligible for Medicaid or Medicare, a citizen or lawfully admitted to the U.S., and have income less than 133% of the federal poverty level (up to $15,521 for an individual or $31,721 for a family of four).

Application for the program can be made by phone (1-855-789-5610), online at www.michigan.gov/mibridges, or in person at a local Department of Human Services office. Applications made through the on-line system can have eligibility determined in a matter of minutes and sometimes even seconds. (more…)

Healthy Michigan Plan gets healthy start!

The Healthy Michigan Plan, Michigan’s Medicaid expansion, opened for enrollment on April 1, and within the first 72 hours, 36,329 applications were submitted through the MIBridges website and 20,995 were approved for coverage. By Tuesday, the number of enrolled shot up to 59,280 — an amazing number for a two-week period.  That means that more than 109,000 people are now covered, including those who were transferred over to the plan from the Adult Benefits Waiver program.

The program is off to a great start — great news for Michigan’s low-income uninsured. The online enrollment system is working well with the majority of applications being processed in a matter of minutes or even seconds. (more…)

Attorney general needs to move on

Attorney General Bill Schuette continues his fight to harm Michiganians by pursuing frivolous lawsuits against the Affordable Care Act.

First he fought to have the law declared unconstitutional and lost — the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the ACA does not violate the Constitution. Now he is fighting to end the premium tax credits for more than 144,000 Michiganians who have so far qualified for them.

Nearly 87% of those who have enrolled in a health plan in Michigan are eligible for premium tax credits to help them pay their insurance premiums. Why would he want to harm more than 144,000 people in his state — his neighbors, his friends, his constituents? (more…)

Healthy Michigan Plan enrollment opens April 1

The Department of Community Health has announced open enrollment will begin for the Healthy Michigan Plan on April 1. This long-awaited announcement is great news for Michigan’s low-income uninsured residents.

Starting next week, adults (ages 19-64) in families with incomes below 133% of the federal poverty level (up to $15,521 for an individual or $31,721 for a family of four) who are not currently eligible for Medicaid or Medicare, and not pregnant, will be able to apply for the comprehensive coverage offered by the Healthy Michigan Plan. Citizenship, or lawful admittance to the U.S., is also required. (more…)

MI exceeds healthcare enrollment target

Enrollment in healthcare plans under the Affordable Care Act is picking up steam, particularly in Michigan.

Nationwide, more than 4 million people have enrolled in healthcare coverage through a state-operated exchange or the federal Marketplace through Feb. 26. And in Michigan, more than 112,000 individuals have enrolled in a plan through Feb. 1, placing Michigan 12% above its federally set target for the period and one of only a handful of states to exceed its enrollment target. (more…)

Exhausted but inspired

I recently returned from Health Action 2014, Families USA’s annual conference, in my usual condition – exhausted yet inspired! It was a good year for Michigan: Dizzy Warren, of Michigan Consumers for Healthcare, was awarded one of the three Advocate of the Year awards, and Michigan blogger Amy Lynn Smith won the painting created onsite by Regina Holliday!

The conference opened with a cancer survivor sharing her story of having her COBRA coverage end on Dec. 31, 2013 during her cancer treatment. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, she was able to sign up for coverage starting Jan. 1 and continue her treatments uninterrupted. (more…)

Healthy Michigan Plan moves forward

Great news to start the year! The federal government Monday approved Michigan’s request to expand Medicaid eligibility through a new program, the Healthy Michigan Plan.

This action brings Michigan one step closer to providing comprehensive coverage to Michigan’s low-income, uninsured residents.

It has been a long, tough road to get to this point. (more…)

Walking the walk with infant mortality

Factors that may drive Michigan’s tragically high infant mortality rate include stress, unemployment, poverty and neighborhood safety in addition to what might be thought of as the more traditional reasons, such as lack of healthcare or poor safe sleep practices, according to a new report from the Michigan Department of Community Health. The report takes a broad look at why Michigan’s rate is so high and in particular why an African American infant in Michigan is 2.6 more times likely to die before reaching the child’s first birthday than a white infant. (more…)

Ten steps to boost Michigan’s economy

new report by the League outlines 10 steps Michigan must take to improve its economy, refuting the myth that tax cuts are a shortcut to economic prosperity. Included in the report are strategies for investing in the services and infrastructure needed to create jobs and fuel economic growth, as well as tax changes that modernize and strengthen the state’s revenue system.

It is an agenda for long-term economic prosperity that includes investments in education from early childhood through higher education, access to the health and mental health services needed for a healthy workforce, basic income security for those who cannot work or find jobs, and support for the community services businesses and consumers rely on. (more…)

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