TUESDAY, Oct. 21, 2009 (313) 300-4454

Urge Senate to Follow House, Enact Three Percent Tax

LANSING, MI – After news this morning that a severely mentally challenged Alpena woman died after being denied dental surgery that would have stopped the life-threatening infection that ultimately killed her, citizens groups demanded the Senate Republicans restore funding for Medicaid by taking up the House-passed tax on doctors’ services.

“You know, people always say that you can’t put a price on a human life, but in this case, you can—$5,000,” said David Holtz, executive director of Progress Michigan, referring to the cost of the woman’s hospital stay Medicaid declined to cover. “This woman would still be alive if her coverage had been intact. Instead, she’s become a victim of Draconian budget cuts inflicted by lawmakers who care more about protecting their political longevity than the longevity of Michigan’s most vulnerable citizens.”

“The cost of saving a few dollars in the Medicaid budget isn’t measured in dollars, it’s measured in lives,” said Gerald Chase, health officer for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, who fought to reverse the decision to eliminate adult dental services, particularly for the developmentally disabled. “We’ll be seeing more of these in the future.”

The House of Representatives passed a three percent tax on doctors services designed to leverage additional federal matching funds for Medicaid. Those funds could then be used to restore the cuts made to Medicaid and adult dental health benefits in the May, 2009 executive order issued by the governor, and continued in the Senate’s budgets. Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop has been vocal in his opposition to raising revenues, preferring instead to continue cutting social safety net programs, health benefits and continuing to balance the budget on the backs of Michigan’s poorest citizens.

Though doctors agreed to donate their services, Medicaid balked at covering the surgery and hospital stay for the Alpena woman. Because of the woman’s mental condition, she was unable to be treated in a dentists’ office.

“The blame is in denial of benefit,” said Chase. “Forty years ago when Medicaid was written, we didn’t realize the connection between physical health and oral health. We now know there’s a direct connection between oral health and numerous conditions.


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