Street Talk: Spectrum queues up for 1.2 million people with no health care insurance


Why the health care insurance issue won’t go away

A new clinic that Spectrum Health just opened in Grand Rapids for people who don’t have a primary care doctor – mainly because of lack of health insurance – is directly linked to the Affordable Care Act.

That might not sit well with tea party supporters and some of the conservative Republicans who are doing what they can to block Gov. Rick Snyder’s expansion of Medicaid in Michigan.

The expansion of Medicaid to millions of low-income Americans without insurance or inadequate insurance is a key requirement of the ACA, or “Obamacare,” as many detractors like to refer to it. Opponents just don’t want to see a government-driven national health care plan in the United States, and they’ve been fighting it since President Truman first tried to get Congress to enact one.

“We have to have some capacity” to accommodate the new patients, who will be covered by the expansion of Medicaid in Michigan, said Dr. Eric Bouwens, lead physician at the new Spectrum Health Medical Group Community Medicine Clinic (CMC). It opened Aug. 5 at 75 Sheldon Boulevard downtown, near South Division, and its goal is to get people going to a doctor for regular primary care, so they will be in better health throughout their lives, and thus less of a burden on the health care system.

Bouwens said if there are hundreds of thousands of new patients resulting from the expansion of Medicaid in Michigan, and no primary care facilities for them to start going to, they’ll just do what they’ve always done up to now: wait until their physical ailments become very serious and then go to the emergency rooms and urgent care centers.

“A lot of people are very concerned about how we’re expanding Medicaid and giving help to people” in the form of primary care, said Bouwens. “They don’t realize we’re paying ten times as much every day for the emergency room treatment of the same problem – and we’re all paying for it, because it ends up causing the cost of everybody’s insurance to go up.”

Have the opponents of the ACA ever asked why hospitals let people in without insurance? Wouldn’t it be easier just to turn them away at the door?

“My understanding is, patients can’t be turned away” legally from a hospital ER, and a pregnant woman cannot be turned away by a hospital obstetrics department, said Lody Zwarensteyn, president of the Alliance for Health.

Dr. Bouwens, who has been a physician for more than 20 years, said that was his understanding, too.

So just how many people are there in Michigan who will be covered by expanded Medicaid coverage, if and when Gov. Snyder succeeds?

The best estimate is about 400,000 – but that won’t be all of the uninsured in Michigan. According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, there are a total of 1.2 million people in Michigan without health insurance.

The lions of public service

 First, CWD Real Estate Investment honored the long-time mayor of Grandville by naming its latest retail development in that city Bucktown. Now the Grand Valley Metro Council will take its turn to show appreciation for the highly respected and extremely popular Grandville Mayor Jim Buck with a breakfast meeting on Nov. 4.

The Buck stops on that date: he is retiring after the November election, has served the city for 41 years, with 28 of those coming as Grandville’s top elected official and 13 as a city council member. He has also chaired the Metro Council for the past 18 years and has been a pretty decent tennis player over that time, too.

The Metro Council has persuaded another long-time elected official, who is also retiring from public office, to be the featured speaker at the Buck breakfast. U.S. Senator Carl Levin is the event special guest. Levin has served in the senate since 1978 and he chairs the Armed Services Committee and the Permanent Committee on Investigations.

Levin also knows a few things about local government. Prior to running for a senate seat, he was a member of the Detroit city council. He also served as general counsel to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission during the turbulent 1960s. When Levin retires from the senate he will have completed 50 years of public service.

“Together our two guests have served the public for 90 years,” said GVMC Executive Director John Weiss.

The breakfast will be held in GVSU’s L. William Seidman Center from 8 until 9:30. But seating will open a half-hour earlier at 7:30. Tickets are just $20 and available by contacting Gayle McCrath at ITC and GVSU are sponsoring the event.

Field of dreams goes virtual

In addition to hiring Bryan Baar as the manager of the new Art Van Sports Complex last week, West Michigan Sports Commission President Mike Guswiler said the complex has a new website. The site will feature news about the facility, offer construction updates, and serve as a key portal for contributions to the commission’s Everyone Wins fundraising campaign.

The effort is just $485,000 short of reaching its $7.4 million goal for first-phase construction, which will create eight of the dozen fields.

“Everyone in West Michigan benefits from the success of the Art Van Sports Complex in terms of economic impact and quality of life, so we urge everyone to get involved in bringing this project to reality,” said Guswiler.

The site address is and suggested donation levels range from $150 to $1,000. Art Van Furniture donated $1.8 million to the effort last October.

“We are grateful for the generous gifts from corporations and philanthropic organizations that got us to this point,” said Guswiler. “And now it’s time for the entire community to get behind the project through these affordable giving levels that also provide a lasting legacy.”

The complex has been projected to attract more than 75 events and 135,000 visitors here in its first five years of operation. The venue is also expected to have a local economic impact of more than $20 million over those years, including $1.5 million each year for the area’s hotels.

Bring in the tigers of this realm

Two of Kent County’s most valuable and popular attractions are being improved.

Kent County commissioners approved a property purchase for Millennium Park last week and also gave the green light to a project that will create more excitement at John Ball Zoo.

Because of the action taken by board members, the John Ball Zoo Society can now go ahead with the first stage of construction for its new Tigers of the Realm Exhibit.

The first-phase work, the larger of the two stages, will create a holding structure, a habitat, a viewing area, and a concession building. The plan is to have this stage completed by next year.

A second construction phase will follow later and will complete the project. Stage two will create a smaller habitat, along with a viewing area. A completion date hasn’t been assigned to that stage.

The John Ball Zoo Society is funding the construction of the tigers’ realm and is currently seeking donations for the work. Bill and Marilyn Crawford have made the lead donation.

The entire project has been estimated at costing $4.5 million. The zoo society has reportedly raised $4 million for the project, which will be built in the zoo’s Idema Forest Realm.

The new exhibit is part of the zoo’s general development plan, which commissioners ratified in 2005.

Commissioners also gave County Parks Director Roger Sabine the authority to buy two acres of land for Millennium Park from the estate of James Elton Whitcomb at a price tag of $100,000 plus closing costs.

The property at 3140 Butterworth Dr. SW in Walker was appraised six years ago at $112,000. The parcel is surrounded by Millennium Park on three sides and makes for a natural addition to the park.

Part of the land’s purchase price, $25,000, will come from the Kent County Parks Foundation.

The 1,500-acre public park is on the county’s west side. It reaches into parts of Grand Rapids, Grandville and Wyoming. It features six acres of beach, a splash pad, covered picnic areas and roughly 20 miles of trails.

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