About 750,000 people in Michigan — or about 7.5 percent of
the state’s residents — are without health insurance,
according to the 2000 Census. To raise awareness on these issues, a
group of medical students is organizing a weeklong campaign with
various lecturers on campus.

Yesterday Helen Levy, an economist at the University of Chicago,
spoke about the effects of insurance on access to health care. Levy
pointed out how health clinics provide access to health care to
those with private or public insurance such as Medicare and
Medicaid and those without insurance.

To gauge the availability of health care for people with and
without insurance, Levy referred to an audit survey she recently
helped conduct. Trained interviewers posed as if they had been
discharged from a hospital emergency room and were asked to obtain
a follow-up appointment at a health clinic. Levy and her colleagues
made more than 860 calls to more than 430 clinics, and the results
were surprising, she said.

The study found that having insurance did not greatly alter the
chance of getting an appointment at a health clinic as long
patients could pay the bills.

“You may not need insurance, but you need cash,”
Levy said.

People with private insurance were more likely to get an
appointment than people with public health insurance because
sometimes public health insurance companies do not compensate
health clinics to the extent that private health insurance
companies do, added Levy.

“The results were surprising (because Levy thought)
clinics would be reluctant to like the uninsured,” said
Levy.

Levy said 90 percent of people acquire health insurance through
fringe benefits they obtain as part of their salaries. On average,
5 percent of the total compensation paid by employers is in the
form of health insurance.

Currently, about 15.5 percent of Americans are without health
insurance.

Of the people insured, two-thirds are insured through a private
insurance plan while others are insured through public plans.

Levy said people without insurance are at a financial risk.

University Medical student Steve Warnick is organizing a visit
to Lansing in addition to the weeklong events held at the Medical
Science Building II. The students plan to stage a rally to voice
their concerns to lawmakers, on the lack of insurance.

Medical School student Nick Boncher said health insurance needs
to be improved. “The facts presented are really interesting
but the problem needs to be worked on,” he said.

He added that the system needs to reformed so people do not
solely rely on the emergency room as a means to health care.

All of the lectures are held from noon to 1 p.m. at the West
Lecture Hall in the Medical Science Building. On Friday, there is a
keynote address by University President Mary Sue Coleman.

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