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Proposed legislation falls short for Michiganders

By GRAHAM JAEHNIG

Houghton Daily Mining Gazette

HOUGHTON — U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) recently introduced bipartisan legislation that aims to improve health outcomes and reduce health care costs for individuals at risk for diabetes and save long-term care costs for Medicare. The statement came in a Nov. 20 press release from Peters’ office.

The Preventing Diabetes in Medicare Act would extend Medicare coverage for medical nutrition therapy services to Americans with pre-diabetes and risk factors for developing type-2 diabetes. This legislation is similar to the bill they have previously introduced. Under current law, Medicare will only cover medical nutrition therapy services for individuals already diagnosed with diabetes or renal disease.

The proposed legislature, however, will only lower healthcare costs for recipients of Medicare, and will not protect all Americans.

Nationally, approximately 30 million Americans have diabetes, the release states. In Michigan, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services found that approximately 870,000 Michiganders are currently living with diabetes almost one out of every 10 individuals in the state over the age of 18.

On the state level, members of both the House and Senate are concerned over those numbers, but more because of politics than concern for public health.

State Representative Cambensy, D-Marquette, introduced a House bill in August that, if passed, would cap the cost of insulin per month to $100, regardless of type or amount.

A companion bill was introduced was introduced by Rep. John Chirkun, D-Roseville, which would task the Michigan Attorney General (AG) with investigating, and issuing, a report on insulin pricing practices and policy recommendations for preventing overpricing. That legislation was referred to the House Government Operations Committee, which is known in Lansing as the place where bills are sent to die.

That committee is chaired by Senator Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, Senate majority leader, the highest ranking position in the Michigan Senate. Shirkey has received more contributions over the last eight years from health plan donors than any other individual lawmaker, at $76,250, according to Michigan Campaign Finance Network. Just a few of these, as reported in the Daily Mining Gazette on Nov. 8, include Michigan Health and Hospice Association, Health PAC, Molina Health Care, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Eli Lilly, one of the leading insulin manufacturers in the U.S.

“Because one in 10 people is diagnosed with diabetes,” said State Representative Sara Cambensy (D-Marquette), “and we do know the vast majority of them use insulin — this does put pressure on my colleagues to pay attention to it.”

Like the bill introduced on the federal level by Peters and Capito, Campbensy’s bill does not extend to all Michiganders.

“It is only for those who have insurance,” Cambensy said. “It’s very difficult to find a way to cover diabetics that aren’t insured, and we know that’s our most vulnerable population.”

Cambensy spoke against campaign contributions like those to Shirkey, saying the Number One thing that would help all Americans, would be to get money out of politics.