Health Care Economic Forecast presents local findings

Allison Rafferty

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On Friday, Jan. 11, researchers from Grand Valley State University and Tulane University teamed up with Blue Cross Blue Shield to present healthcare-related trends and costs at the 10th Annual West Michigan Health Care Economic Forecast at the Eberhard Center on GVSU’s Pew Grand Rapids Campus.

The discussion had an approximate total attendance of 500, with another 100 people viewing the event via online video streaming. The event took place from 8 to 9:45 a.m. and was sponsored by GVSU’s Office of the Vice Provost for Health. 

The overall goal of the event was “to monitor trends in health care use and expenditures and to target areas where focused effort could improve the health of the population,” said Assistant Professor of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at Tulane Kevin Callison. 

A multitude of health trends were discussed and predicted at the event, three of which were smoking rates, obesity and alcohol consumption across both the west Michigan region and the Detroit region. 

“Focusing on the smoking rates, we find that the smoking rate in the Detroit region has remained fairly constant and above the national average, but that there has been a positive downward trend in the smoking rate within the west Michigan region,” said Sebastian Linde, an economics faculty member from GVSU’s Seidman College of Business.

In terms of obesity, Callison said that about 30 percent of adults in the Grand Rapids area are obese, compared to roughly 33 percent in the Detroit area.

Linde and Callison presented the Health Check, an analysis of health care access, risk factors and demographic data from Kent, Ottawa, Allegan and Muskegan counties.

“The Health Check report covered education and job growth in the medical industry, trends in medical patents, demographic changes across the state of Michigan, a health care overview of population health risk factors and access to care measures across west Michigan and the Detroit region,” Linde said. 

According to Linde, the Health Check report had “a number of surprising results.” He explained that as of recent, “we have witnessed more people get access to health insurance across both the west Michigan region and the Detroit region.”

Callison said, “We’re beginning to see the effects of increased insurance coverage as people report improved access to care, reduced cost-related barriers, and an increase in utilization.”

Linde noted that despite the increase in insurance coverage, there isn’t a clear, positive correlation in a healthier public. 

“We have seen more people report having a primary health care provider and [have] seen more individuals seek preventive care, yet we do not find that people’s self-reported health status has improved much across either of the two regions,” Linde said. 

“Legislation plays a key role in the expansion of insurance, which is the first step toward raising the reported health status,” Callison said. “Because of the Affordable Care Act and the 2014 Medicaid expansion, the uninsurance rate in Michigan has fallen over the last few years and is at an all-time low.”

With regards to health care costs, Linde said that the presentations came to the overall conclusion that in patients with key conditions, their expenditures have increased.

“Across six chronic conditions (asthma, CAD, depression, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, (and) low back pain) we find that expenditures per patient (on average) are higher within the Detroit region than in the west Michigan (KOMA counties),” Linde said.

In regards to those conditions, Callison said they are still being monitored for long-term research.

“We’ve continued to monitor health expenditures for those diagnosed with a chronic condition, and after several years of expenditure growth, spending on chronic conditions fell slightly from 2016 to 2017,” Callison said.