Michigan Health Endowment Fund hears local health concerns

Late last year, a change in the corporate status of Blue Cross Blue Shield prompted the Michigan Legislature to require the company to contribute $1.5 billion over a period of 18 years to the newly established Michigan Health Endowment Fund.

Members of the fledgling fund met with community health professionals from across the Upper Peninsula Thursday in Marquette as part of an ongoing statewide listening tour. The tour was designed to provide the fund with an opportunity to hear concerns, challenges, and promising innovations groups from Michigan have with regard to healthcare.

“Really, the whole goal is to listen and learn and hear what’s going on in communities, hear what might be working, hear what we could possibly replicate in other areas of the state,” the fund’s interim executive director, Geralyn Lasher, said. “It’s a wonderful, wonderful opportunity for us to really get off the ground and really have a positive impact on the health and wellness of seniors and kids in the state of Michigan.”

“We’re trying to first learn and then do, and hopefully the result of this is that we’ll understand a little bit better what are the regional disparities and what are the regional priorities, and with that, it will help inform any grant-making that we do and any fund distribution that we do down the road,” fund chairman Rob Fowler added.

Many of the issues brought up by U.P. healthcare groups focused on the need for improved communication between providers and enhanced education for families, the elderly and children about healthcare opportunities in the area. Thoughts on transportation for the elderly, physician recruitment and mental health were also a part of the day’s discourse.

The Michigan Health Endowment Fund will be giving a set of pilot grants to statewide organizations this year. The fund will be using the information gathered on the listening tour to provide further grant opportunities in 2015.