Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Advocacy done right: Irene Tanzman on VOR's 2024 Legislative Initiative

Irene Tanzman is the mother of a son with severe autism from Massachusetts:

"In this video, I describe the experience of the 2024 VOR (Voice of Reason) legislative initiative. I go into detail about what we did, how we were trained, and what legislation we promoted. For anyone thinking about legislative advocacy for individuals with severe/profound intellectual disabilities and/or severe/profound autism, this is a must-see video. The VOR legislative initiative is bootcamp for legislative advocates. There is no better training for legislative advocacy than experiencing the VOR legislative initiative."

VOR's 2024 Legislative Initiative was held from May 7-9, 2024. I was not able to go this year, but I share Irene's enthusiasm for the experience of meeting directly with legislators and their aides in Washington, DC. and with other family advocates, most of whom have family members with severe to profound intellectual disabilities. 

The most important message that VOR is advancing in its legislative initiative is that listening to families is of primary importance in crafting legislation and policy that serves and protects people with IDD.

You will hear Irene get into the nitty gritty of preparing to talk to legislators and how grueling and exhilarating the experience can be. Educating yourself and others is the first benefit of this advocacy, but it also instills confidence that your own experience with living with disabilities is a powerful message to legislators.


VOR materials shared with congressional staffers during the VOR 2024 Legislative Initiative.


Sunday, April 28, 2024

Missteps by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in “unwinding” Medicaid eligibility

At the end of February 2024, I was visiting my son’s group home, where I was given a letter addressed to Ian from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and our local Washtenaw Department of DHS. It was the result of a dreaded Medicaid eligibility review by the State.

Ian is 39 years old and has profound and lifelong intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

The letter, a “Health Care Coverage Determination Notice”, started out on a cheerful note giving hope of continued eligibility for at least some health care coverage:

As of 3/1/24, Ian is eligible for “…Ongoing (Plan First - PFFP) (Limited Coverage)”.

It turns out that this small sliver of help offered by the State was limited to family planning! This is indeed very bad news for someone who, for all his adult life, has had medical services covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and various state programs to help people with extraordinary and expensive needs. Never once has he asked for or needed family planning services. Beyond family planning, Ian was told that he could try to get insurance through Healthy Michigan, Michigan’s Medicaid expansion plan, or hope that he gets employment soon with great health insurance.

The form that this information was transmitted on was five pages long, much of it
irrelevant and in code. I am usually good at translating agency-speak into English, but this was beyond my capabilities.

The group home supervisor had recently tried calling MDHHS about Ian’s benefits and was told that she needed to put Ian on the phone so that Ian could give permission for the employee to speak to the group home supervisor. The problem is that Ian does not talk and is unable to communicate in any specific way. We know when he is happy, sad, distressed, joyful or somewhere in between, but we have no idea if he knows what “giving permission” means. That is why my husband and I have been appointed as Ian’s plenary co-guardians through the Washtenaw County Probate Court.

Apparently, the unravelling of Ian’s health insurance was triggered by a failure to fill out paperwork in a timely manner and appeal a decision that was made some time ago that stopped payments to him for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Ian’s brother Danny, who was also profoundly disabled, died in October of 2022. After that Ian’s social security benefits, based on his share of his father’s retirement benefits, increased to the point where he was no longer eligible for SSI. In Michigan, a person who qualifies for SSI is automatically eligible for Medicaid.

I was notified of Ian’s change in SSI benefits two weeks after Danny died, but I did not remember receiving the notice. There it was, however, in my “Ian Files”. I did not realize that this might affect Ian’s Medicaid, but I did notice that his SSI check was no longer appearing in his monthly bank statements. The notice stated that I would need to appeal to the state if it was planning to drop his Medicaid coverage. This was during the COVID-19 emergency when federal rules protected people on Medicaid from losing Medicaid benefits.

[If you are not confused yet, you should be. This is just one of those glitches that families experience all the time when dealing with agencies that provide services to their disabled family member. It is one reason you will find family members, especially parents, who develop their own type of Caregiver Savant Syndrome, who can rattle off lists of symptoms, medications, and specialists who treat whatever it is their kid has, or quote from law and court cases that pertain to their child’s rights, or list agencies they have complained to and who within those agencies are helpful and who are not.]

Re-determination of Medicaid eligibility is not just a Michigan problem, but a countrywide mess. This is from an article, "Worse Than People Can Imagine: Medicaid ‘Unwinding’ Breeds Chaos in States" from KFF Health News regarding eligibility reviews of Medicaid beneficiaries after the COVID-19 emergency protections were rescinded in Spring of 2023: 

“Seven months into what was predicted to be the biggest upheaval in the 58-year history of the government health insurance program for people with low incomes and disabilities, states have reviewed the eligibility of more than 28 million people and terminated coverage for over 10 million of them. Millions more are expected to lose Medicaid in the coming months.”

To continue with the Ian saga:

I have been to enough conferences about disability rights, Medicaid, and the availability of services to have remembered that if someone receives an “adverse” decision to change or drop services, that decision can be appealed. The agencies involved have to continue providing benefits until a decision is made at an administrative appeals hearing, as long as the decision is appealed immediately.

I decided to appeal, but first, I needed to call wheelchair seating at the University of Michigan. They were on the brink of delivering a new custom-made wheelchair to Ian that had been in the works for over 7 months and I was not about to let a lapse in Medicaid benefits get in the way of the chair’s delivery. They said they could have the chair done by the next day.

Then I whipped together an appeal to the the Michigan DHHS with a plea to reconsider their decision to drop Ian’s Medicaid coverage, with the first point being that he would never be able to afford medical coverage or other services with his Social Security benefits as his only source of income. I threw in a description of Ian that would have made the severity of Ian’s disabilities obvious to anyone over the age of three who had ever met him in person. Furthermore, his status as a person with a disability that qualified him for benefits in the first place had not changed. I’m sorry if this sounds like bragging, but after 47 years in the disability world, I am really good at this and I do think it ultimately helped in resolving the issue.

I faxed the appeal to the our local DHHS office and we waited. I got another Health Care Coverage Determination Notice again telling me that Ian was being offered inadequate coverage even though I should have been informed about what I knew already - that he would continue with full coverage at least until a hearing could be held over my appeal.

Then I heard that sometimes it was faster to get Medicaid reinstated by just reapplying for the benefit. So on 4/5/24 my husband and I trudged off to the local DHHS office to see if we could pick up paper work to reapply for benefits.

As we entered the door to the DHS office, I noticed immediately that there was a security guard at the entrance. A good thing, I thought, considering how angry people get when they are being put through this form of light torture. I appreciated that the first gatekeeper was good at controlling the crowd. When it was finally my turn, I explained that we wanted to pick up some paperwork to fill out so that we could reapply for benefits for our son. Apparently, one does not just pick up paperwork without a reason and an appointment, so I explained that our boy is profoundly disabled and has been since birth. We just wanted the State to recognize this and continue with full coverage of his medical health insurance.

The gatekeeper asked if we could bring Ian in so that Ian could nod his head if he agreed to give us permission to talk to the gatekeeper. I said no, that is not a reliable way to get Ian’s permission, but I mentioned that I had also brought copies of our guardianship papers. With that, he said he would try to get us in to talk to a caseworker. 

About 15 minutes later, we met with a very nice lady who admitted that this was an unusual situation. She had to go off to talk to her supervisor, who then needed to consult with a medical supervisor, to straighten things out. They decided that what they needed to do was to get Ian re-instated as a “Disabled Adult Child” through the Federal Social Security Administration (SSA). The good news was that the caseworker copied our guardianship papers and entered them into Ian’s file. If all goes right, Ian will not be asked again to give permission for us to talk to employees at MDHHS, something he is not able to do. This also meant that the MDHHS would send correspondence to both us as Ian’s guardians and to Ian at his group home.

In the meantime, our local DHHS office sent a notice of a pre-Appeals Hearing Conference for 3/11/24 to try to resolve the hearing issues. Unfortunately, it was a phone conference, and even though the group home had brought Ian to the local DHHS office, he stayed in the parking lot. Had anyone bothered to lay eyes on Ian before they decided to reduce his medical coverage, it would have been obvious that this was probably a mistake. The Appeals Hearing itself was scheduled for 4/25/24.

On 3/19/24, the Federal SSA sent a letter to me (as Ian’s Representative Payee) stating that because Michigan was no longer paying for Ian’s Medicare premiums, $174.70 would be deducted from his monthly SSA check.

On 4/5/24, MDHHS sent another “Health Care Coverage Determination Notice” stating that Ian is eligible for “03/01/2024-Ongoing (Full Coverage)”, but I was not sure what this meant exactly. 

On 4/12/24, the Federal SSA sent me another letter, stating that the state of Michigan will indeed pay Ian's monthly Medicare premium, bringing his monthly SSA benefits back up to $1,277.00 per month.

Finally, after speaking to his local caseworker for DHHS, she explained that yes, the State is paying for full medical coverage for our dear boy. I was then convinced that the issue of health insurance coverage was resolved.

I then asked the State to “Dismiss the Request for Hearing…”, which involved filling out another form and an exchange of paperwork and a phone call with the State.


If you have guardianship for a severely disabled family member, use it to make sure that you are in on important decisions regarding benefits and care. The movement to discredit people who are guardians and disparage guardianship as a violation of individual civil rights, doesn’t make sense for individuals who lack the ability to exercise their rights on their own behalf.

Don’t give up and assume that you are doomed to accept the loss of benefits because someone says so in a letter.

As far as the State is concerned, I think that anytime a state or local agency considers taking benefits away from a person with severe disabilities, bells and flashing lights should go off on the computers of state and local agency employees that says, “Reconsider before you do anything rash.” The first review by agencies should  require that they contact someone who has laid eyes on the beneficiary and knows something about them. Think about all the wasted time and energy spent on Ian, only to come back around to where they started in the first place - assuring needed health care benefits to someone who should have been eligible all along.

Medicaid, Medicare, SSI, SSA, and the intricacies of their interface between the Federal and State agencies is complicated. I understand enough to pull Ian though this crisis, but there are large gaps in my knowledge. Sorry, but you will have to get in touch with another Caregiver Savant who is better equipped to help. Who knows? Sooner or later, that may be you.

And one more thing…as I was leaving Ian’s group home last week, I discovered that the State has sent a letter to another resident, stating that she was losing benefits because she was no longer disabled. That must have been a miraculous recovery, because she sure looked to me to be as disabled as she was before she received that letter.

See also:

5 Things to Know When Your Child with Disabilities Turns 18
October 26, 2023, by Margaret A. Graham, Esq., an attorney affiliated with Special Needs Alliance

DISABLED ADULT CHILD BENEFITS, posted April 17, 2023 by a lawfirm in Florida

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Medicaid "Unwinding" Breeds Chaos in States

We have had our own personal version of "unwinding chaos" since the end of February, 2024. Our son Ian, who has profound, lifelong, disabilities and lives in a group home in Ypsilanti, Michigan, was found ineligible for full Medicaid healthcare benefits that he had been receiving for almost 20 years. Before I go into what happened and how the problem has finally been resolved (knock-on-wood), here is an article from Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF Health News) with a broader picture of what is happening across the country:

‘Worse Than People Can Imagine’: Medicaid ‘Unwinding’ Breeds Chaos in States
By Phil Galewitz and Katheryn Houghton and Brett Kelman and Samantha Liss, November 2, 2023

[This story also ran on USA Today. It can be republished for free.]

The parents of a disabled man in Tennessee who had been on Medicaid for three decades fought with the state this summer to keep him enrolled as he lay dying from pneumonia in a hospital.

Seven months into what was predicted to be the biggest upheaval in the 58-year history of the government health insurance program for people with low incomes and disabilities, states have reviewed the eligibility of more than 28 million people and terminated coverage for over 10 million of them. Millions more are expected to lose Medicaid in the coming months.

The unprecedented enrollment drop comes after federal protections ended this spring [2023] that had prohibited states from removing people from Medicaid during the three pandemic years. Since March 2020, enrollment in Medicaid and the related Children’s Health Insurance Program had surged by more than 22 million to reach 94 million people. The process of reviewing all recipients’ eligibility has been anything but smooth for many Medicaid enrollees. Some are losing coverage without understanding why. Some are struggling to prove they’re still eligible. Recipients and patient advocates say Medicaid officials sent mandatory renewal forms to outdated addresses, miscalculated income levels, and offered clumsy translations of the documents. Attempting to process the cases of tens of millions of people at the same time also has exacerbated long-standing weaknesses in the bureaucratic system. Some suspect particular states have used the confusing system to discourage enrollment.

“It’s not just bad, but worse than people can imagine,” said Camille Richoux, health policy director for the nonprofit Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. “This unwinding has not been about determining who is eligible by all possible means, but how we can kick people off by all possible means.” 

To be sure, some of the Medicaid recipients who signed on to the program when the U.S. unemployment rate soared amid covid-19 lockdowns have since gotten health insurance through new jobs as unemployment dropped back to pre-pandemic lows.

And some of the disenrolled are signing up for Affordable Care Act marketplace plans. Centene CEO Sarah London, for example, told investors on Oct. 24 that the health care giant expected as many as 2.4 million of its 15 million Medicaid managed care members to lose coverage from the unwinding, but more than 1 million customers had joined its exchange plans since the same time last year.

Still, it’s anyone’s guess how many former Medicaid beneficiaries remain uninsured. States don’t track what happens to everyone after they’re disenrolled. And the final tallies likely won’t be known until 2025, after the unwinding finishes by next summer and federal officials survey Americans’ insurance status.

Without Medicaid, Patients Miss Appointments

Trish Chastain, 35, of Springfield, Missouri, said her Medicaid coverage is scheduled to expire at the end of the year. Though her children are still covered, she no longer qualifies because her income is too high at $22 an hour. Chastain’s employer, a rehab center, offers health insurance but her share of the premium would be $260 a month. “I can’t afford that with my monthly budget,” she said.

She said she did not know she might be eligible for a lower-cost plan on the Affordable Care Act marketplace. That still would mean new costs for her, though.
Gaps in coverage can jeopardize people’s access to health services or their financial security if they get medical bills for care they cannot postpone.

“Any type of care that's put off — whether it's asthma, whether it's autism, whether it's something as simple as an earache — can just get worse if you wait,” said Pam Shaw, a pediatrician in Kansas City, Kansas, who chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics’ state government affairs committee.

Doctors and representatives of community health centers around the country said they have seen an uptick in cancellations and no-shows among patients without coverage — including children. Nationwide, states have already disenrolled at least 1.8 million children in the 20 states that provide the data by age. Children typically qualify more easily than adults, so child advocates believe many kids are being wrongly terminated based on their parents’ being deemed no longer eligible. 

Meanwhile, enrollment in CHIP, which has higher income eligibility levels than Medicaid, has shown only a tiny increase.

Kids accounted for varying shares of those disenrolled in each state, ranging from 68% in Texas to 16% in Massachusetts, according to KFF. In September, President Joe Biden’s administration said most states were conducting eligibility checks incorrectly and inappropriately disenrolling eligible children or household members. It ordered states to reinstate coverage for some 500,000 people.

Varying Timetables, Varying Rates of Disenrollment

Idaho, one of a few states that completed the unwind in six months, said it disenrolled 121,000 people of the 153,000 recipients it reviewed as of September because it suspected they were no longer eligible with the end of the public health emergency. Of those kicked off, about 13,600 signed up for private coverage on the state’s ACA marketplace, said Pat Kelly, executive director of Your Health Idaho, the state’s exchange. What happened to the rest, state officials say they don’t know.

California, by contrast, started terminating recipients only this summer and is automatically transferring coverage from Medicaid to marketplace plans for those eligible.

The Medicaid disenrollment rates of people reviewed so far vary dramatically by state, largely along a blue-red political divide, from a low of 10% in Illinois to a high of 65% in Texas.

“I feel like Illinois is doing everything in their power to ensure that as few people lose coverage as possible,” said Paula Campbell of the Illinois Primary Health Care Association, which represents dozens of community health centers.

Nationwide, about 71% of Medicaid enrollees terminated during the unwinding have been cut because of procedural issues, such as not responding to requests for information to verify their eligibility. 

It’s unclear how many are actually still eligible. State and local Medicaid officials say they have tried contacting enrollees in multiple ways — including through letters, phone calls, emails, and texts — to check their eligibility. Yet some Medicaid recipients lack consistent addresses or internet service, do not speak English, or are juggling more pressing needs.

“The unwinding effort continues to be very challenging and a significant lift for all states,” said Kate McEvoy, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors.

‘People Are Not Getting Through

In many states, that has meant enrollees have faced long waits to get help with renewals. The worst phone waits were in Missouri, according to a KFF Health News review of letters the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services sent to states in August. In the letter to Missouri’s Medicaid program, CMS said it was concerned that the average wait time of 48 minutes and the 44% rate of Missourians abandoning those calls in May was “impeding equitable access” to assistance and patients’ ability to maintain coverage.

Some people are waiting on hold more than three hours, said Sunni Johnson, an enrollment worker at Affinia Healthcare, which runs community health centers in the St. Louis area. That’s a significant hurdle for a population in which many have limited cellphone minutes.

In Florida, which has removed over 730,000 people from the program since April, enrollees earlier this year were waiting almost 2½ hours on a Spanish-language call center, according to a report from UnidosUS, a civil rights advocacy group. The Spanish versions of the Medicaid application, renewal website, and other communications are also confusing, said Jared Nordlund, the Florida director for UnidosUS.

“They can barely get the Spanish translations right,” he said.

Miguel Nevarez, press secretary for Florida’s Department of Children and Families, which is managing the state’s Medicaid redetermination process, criticized complaints about poor translations and long waits for the Spanish-language call center as a “false narrative.” He said, “The data clearly shows Florida has executed a fair and effective plan for redeterminations.”

In California, similarly jammed phone lines, crowded and understaffed county offices, and trouble downloading renewal applications electronically are all “compounding people’s difficulty to renew” their Medicaid, said Skyler Rosellini, a senior attorney in the Los Angeles office of the National Health Law Program. “We do know, based on the cases we’re getting, that people are not getting through.”

Jasmine McClain, a 31-year-old medical assistant, said she tried everything before Montana ended Medicaid coverage for her kids, ages 3 and 5, in early October. She tried submitting paperwork online and over fax to prove they still qualified. She spent hours on hold with the state hotline. After her kids’ coverage ended, she went to a state public assistance office in Missoula but couldn’t get an appointment. One day in mid-October, roughly 30 people lined up outside the office starting as early as 6:40 a.m., before its doors opened.

After three weeks of her pleading for help while her kids were uninsured, the state restored her kids’ coverage. She said a supervisor told her the family’s paperwork submitted online wasn’t processed initially.

“The phone call system was a mess. Callbacks were a week out to even talk to somebody,” McClain said. “It just was just a lot of hurdles that I had to get through.”
Spokespeople for the Montana, Florida, and Missouri Medicaid programs all said their states had reduced call wait times.

Some Medicaid recipients are seeking help through the courts. In a 2020 class-action lawsuit against Tennessee that seeks to pause the Medicaid eligibility review, parents of recipients describe spending hours on the phone or online with the state Medicaid program, trying to ensure their children’s insurance coverage is not lost.

One of those parents, Donna Guyton, said in a court filing that Tennessee’s Medicaid program, called TennCare, sent a June letter revoking the coverage of her 37-year-old son, Patrick, who had been eligible for Medicaid because of disabilities since he was 6. As Guyton made calls and filed appeals to protect her son’s insurance, he was hospitalized with pneumonia, then spent weeks there before dying in late July.

“While Patrick was fighting for his life, TennCare was threatening to take away his health insurance coverage and the services he relied on,” she said in a court filing. “Though we should have been able to focus on Patrick’s care, our family was required to navigate a system that kept denying his eligibility and putting his health coverage at risk.” 

TennCare said in a court filing Patrick Guyton’s Medicaid coverage was never actually revoked — the termination letter was sent to his family because of an “error.

Phil Galewitz in Washington, D.C., wrote this article. Daniel Chang in Hollywood, Florida; Katheryn Houghton in Missoula, Montana; Brett Kelman in Nashville, Tennessee; Samantha Liss and Bram Sable-Smith in St. Louis; and Bernard J. Wolfson in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

KFF Health News is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF — the independent source for health policy research, polling, and journalism.

Monday, March 4, 2024

Measles in Michigan

According to an article from the Detroit Free Press, "Washtenaw, Wayne county officials recommend vaccination amid potential measles exposures" by Jenna Prestininzi, 3/3/2024, measles has made its way to Washtenaw and Wayne County, Michigan:

"Those most at risk include those who are unvaccinated, those who don't know their immunization status, pregnant women and those who have a weakened immune system because of illness and diseases like HIV, malnutrition and/or medications."

"Common measles symptoms include:
    •    High fever (may spike to more than 104℉).
    •    Cough.
    •    Runny nose.
    •    Red, watery eyes (conjunctivitis).
    •    Tiny white spots on the inner cheeks, gums and roof of mouth two to three days after symptoms begin.
    •    A rash that is red, raised, blotchy; often starts on face, spreads to the trunk, arms and legs three to five days after symptoms begin.

Anyone potentially exposed should get vaccinated against measles within 72 hours if not already immune, officials said. The MMR vaccine protects against measles, rumps [sic] and rubella, with two doses considered to provide immunity."

[I left the above typo in because news outlets that rely on spellcheck rather than actual human beings to check for errors deserve the embarrassment. Imagine if that had appeared in a headline - "The MMR vaccine protects against rumps". Maybe that would increase the vaccination rate?]

"Widespread measles vaccination greatly reduces the virus' spread, with one dose about 93% effective and two doses about 97% effective, according to the CDC. In Michigan, vaccine coverage for the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine for children 4 to 6 years old has fallen from 89.4% in 2017 to 84% in 2022. Among children ages 19-35 months old, vaccine coverage has dropped from 84.7% in April 2020 to 83.6% in December 2023, state health officials said."

Measles can be serious

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

"...Children younger than 5 years of age and adults older than 20 years of age are more likely to suffer from complications. Common complications are ear infections and diarrhea. Serious complications include pneumonia and encephalitis."

 Common complications:
    •    Ear infections occur in about one out of every 10 children with measles.
    •    Diarrhea is reported in less than one out of 10 people with measles.

Severe complications in children and adults

Some people may suffer from severe complications, such as pneumonia (infection of the lungs) and encephalitis (swelling of the brain). They may need to be hospitalized and could die.

Hospitalization. About 1 in 5 unvaccinated people in the U.S. who get measles is hospitalized.

Pneumonia. As many as 1 out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia, the most common cause of death from measles in young children.

Encephalitis. About 1 child out of every 1,000 who get measles will develop encephalitis (swelling of the brain) that can lead to convulsions and can leave the child deaf or with intellectual disability.

Death. Nearly 1 to 3 of every 1,000 children who become infected with measles will die from respiratory and neurologic complications.

Complications during pregnancy. Measles may cause pregnant women who have not had the MMR vaccine to give birth prematurely, or have a low-birth-weight baby.

Long-term complications

Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a very rare, but fatal disease of the central nervous system that results from a measles virus infection acquired earlier in life...

Vaccine Safety from the CDC:

The Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine is very safe, and it is effective at preventing measles, mumps, and rubella. Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. Most people who get MMR vaccine do not have any serious problems with it. Getting MMR vaccine is much safer than getting measles, mumps, or rubella.

Common Side Effects of MMR Vaccine
    •    Sore arm from the shot
    •    Fever
    •    Mild rash
    •    Temporary pain and stiffness in the joints, mostly in teenage or adult women who did not already have immunity to the rubella component of the vaccine 

MMR vaccine has been linked with a very small risk of febrile seizures (seizures or jerking caused by fever). Febrile seizures following MMR vaccination are rare and are not associated with any long-term effects. Because the risk of febrile seizures increases as infants get older, it is recommended that they get vaccinated as soon as recommended.

Some people may experience swelling in the cheeks or neck. MMR vaccine rarely causes a temporary low platelet count, which can cause a bleeding disorder that usually goes away without treatment and is not life threatening. 

Extremely rarely, a person may have a serious allergic reaction to MMR vaccine. Anyone who has ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to the antibiotic neomycin, or any other component of MMR vaccine, should not get the vaccine.

On the same CDC page, see Related Scientific Articles


Deciding to vaccinate or not, seems to me, to be similar to deciding whether to use an antibiotic to treat a bacterial infection. A few people have serious and even life-threatening reactions to certain antibiotics. Weighing the alternative of living with a raging infection against the likelihood of a serious side-effect, most people come down on the side of taking the risk with an antibiotic. Included in weighing that risk is past experience with the medication and allergic reactions that have already been experienced.

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Michigan's Children's Special Health Care Services expands health care for adults

This is from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services:

CONTACT: Lynn Sutfin, 517-241-2112, SutfinL1@michigan.gov
MDHHS Children’s Special Health Care Services
 expands to cover young adults until age 26

LANSING, Mich. – Young adults with special health care needs in Michigan will have increased access to care thanks to the expansion of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Children’s Special Health Care Services (CSHCS) program.

Through a FY24 budget recommendation by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that was approved by the Michigan Legislature, coverage was extended from age 21 to age 26. This expansion is expected to provide coverage to an additional 9,000 individuals. 

MDHHS began processing enrollments for this newly eligible population last month.

“Governor Whitmer continues to focus on improving public health and investments to make Michigan communities healthier,” said MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel. 

Expansion of Children’s Special Health Care Services will provide access to needed health services and specialty care for young adults with chronic or complex health conditions as they are more likely to have challenges accessing care.

Children’s Special Health Care Services is a program that assists families with a child or young adult with a chronic or complex medical condition. It covers more than 2,700 physical conditions. In addition, it provides coverage to clients regardless of age with cystic fibrosis, hemophilia or sickle cell disease. In Michigan, more than 40,000 individuals, primarily children, are enrolled in the program.

“On behalf of Michigan’s epilepsy community, we are excited and grateful to see extended coverage of the Children’s Special Health Care Services program to age 26,” said Brianna Romines, Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan president. “Many youth with epilepsy receive coverage through this program and while this program previously ended at 21, managing their epilepsy and seizures continues on. We know that by extending this program, more youth with epilepsy and many other chronic medical conditions will have access to the comprehensive care needed to best manage their condition and live their best life.”

MDHHS encourages young adults with special health care needs to apply for coverage by contacting their local health department for assistance.

“The Children’s Special Health Care Services Detroit Local Health Department Office is excited and thrilled with the expansion of coverage for individuals with eligible chronic medical conditions up to the age of 26,” said Crystal Hepburn, BSN, RN, CCM, Children's Special Health Care Services program manager, Detroit Health Department. “This expansion continues to assist our program in addressing the health disparities within our community. Having equitable, accessible health care for our clients aids in the appropriate management of their diagnosis and affects the quality of life, increasing the opportunities for positive health outcomes. By increasing access to care and coverage, it decreases the financial stress and burden for clients in managing their chronic medical condition. We are delighted that our families will continue to have the wonderful support that they have come to know within our local health department until their family member reaches age 26.”

For more information on Children’s Special Health Care Services or the enrollment process, individuals should contact their local health department, the Children’s Special Health Care Services Family Phone Line at 800-359-3722 or on the MDHHS website.


General information about CSHCS

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Michigan primary election: February 27, 2024

January 21, 2024

Voter information is available on the MI Secretary of State Website. The Republican primary election is more contested this year than the Democratic primary and a bit more complicated. You can read about that here.

Register to vote: You can register to vote on-line up to 14 days before the election. After that, for this election, you can register in person up until and on Election Day at your city or township clerk’s office. Michigan does not register voters by party affiliation. When you vote in a primary election, you need to pick a ballot for one party with the names of candidates running on that party’s ticket.

To be eligible to register to vote you must be:

   •    A Michigan resident (at the time you register) and a resident of your city or township for at least 30 days (when you vote)
    •    A United States citizen
    •    At least 18 years of age (when you vote)
    •    Not currently serving a sentence in jail or prison

Proof of residency:

You must show proof of where you live. Documents must have your name and current address. You can show a digital copy of documents. Acceptable documents include:
    •    Michigan driver’s license or state ID
    •    Current utility bill
    •    Bank statement
    •    Paycheck or government check
    •    Other government document

Absentee Voting:

From the SOS Website: “All registered voters in Michigan can now vote using what’s called an absentee ballot. You don’t need an excuse or a reason. You can vote by absentee ballot through the mail, without leaving your home. You can also go to your city or township clerk’s office or drop box to return your absentee ballot, which we recommend if you are returning a ballot within two weeks of election day, in order to avoid possible postal delays.”

From the Detroit Free Press, “Michigan presidential primary 2024: Election Day date, how to vote, candidates” by Arpan Lobo, 1/17/24:

...Key dates, deadlines for Michigan presidential primary

While the primary day itself is Tuesday, Feb. 27, Michigan also has early voting and absentee voting. Here are some key dates to know for the presidential primary:
    •    Sunday, Jan. 28: Communities may begin allowing early voting. Michigan election law requires communities to hold at least nine days of early in-person voting, but communities can choose to hold up to 29 days of early voting. To find out your community's early voting schedule, contact your local clerk's office, which can be found online at the Michigan Voter Information Center at michigan.gov/vote.
    •    Monday, Feb. 12: Deadline to register to vote online or by mail and be eligible to vote in the Tuesday, Feb. 27, presidential primary.
    •    Tuesday, Feb. 13: On this day and afterward, people registering to vote in the presidential primary must do so in person at a local clerk's office with proof of residency.
    •    Saturday, Feb. 17: Communities must begin allowing early voting.
    •    Friday, Feb. 23, at 5 p.m.: Deadline to request an absentee ballot online or through the mail.
    •    Sunday, Feb. 25: Last day of early voting.
    •    Monday, Feb. 26, at 4 p.m.: Deadline to request an absentee ballot in person at a local clerk's office.
    •    Tuesday, Feb. 27, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.: Election Day! Polls are open. Voters can also obtain absentee ballots at their local clerk's office until polls close, but only if they are registering to vote or updating their voter registration address.


More information is available on the MI Secretary of State Website

Michigan: Governor Whitmer proposes $5,000 tax credit for caregivers

The Detroit Free Press reported today on a proposal by Governor Whitmer to provide tax relief to caregivers. 

According to the article, “Whitmer's Michigan caregiver tax credit proposal could provide up to $5,000 in tax relief” by Clara Hendrickson, 1/21/24, the plan would “provide up to $5,000 in tax relief for thousands of Michigan families, covering expenses such as counseling, transportation and nursing or respite services. Whitmer's office said the proposal will allow more seniors in Michigan to age where they live and help parents caring for children with long-term needs.”

According to a 2021 AARP study “…unpaid family caregivers spend an average of $7,242 annually. The advocacy group places the economic value of their contributions supporting the adults in their lives at an estimated $600 billion.”

The “Caring for MI Family Tax Credit" would cover expenses such as counseling, transportation and nursing or respite services to alleviate financial stress on families caring for seniors and parents caring for children with long-term needs.