Body & Soul BLUE Challenge entrants mark the midpoint with an outpouring of spirit

Only the serious showed up at Fuller Park in Grand Rapids on our recent squishy Sept. 11. But, they were enough.

The hardy band of cold, damp souls I met at the park was there to mark the midpoint of this year’s Body & Soul BLUE Challenge, a three-month wellness competition between 11 African-American faith communities around the city. The Blues are co-sponsors of the Challenge along with the American Cancer Society. Participants had free massages awaiting them in the park, a Zumba® warm-up, rows of health and fitness vendors, a group walk to the Fulton Street Farmers Market and discount tokens for the goods they’d find there.

That persistent rain had no chance of causing a wash-out. There was too much heart there for that to happen.

And, if you’re unsure about that, just check out this from that day:

Or consider that participants in last year’s Challenge, which was won by Ms. Moody, who you’ll meet in the video, and her husband Rev. Nathaniel’s church, logged a whopping 167,000 miles. About 49,000 of those miles were from members of Moody’s Brown Hutcherson Ministries alone.

Considering the date, an observer couldn’t help but think a lot about transformation as he walked around the park. I asked everyone I spoke to that day whether they were seeing lives being changed and every one of them came back with an emphatic yes.

Holding such an event in the African-American community makes a certain amount of sense. It’s true that many African- Americans are at high risk for many serious and often fatal diseases, some of it lifestyle-driven, some of it not.

But, I quickly found out that there was much more at work here. The bulk of the conversation that came back to me that day was about how taking care of the body is a spiritual act in itself. Others talked about having a responsibility to their spiritual selves to be as fit as they can be. “Bringing together the health and well-being of whole communities,” BCBSM’s Cle Jackson called it.

This year’s Body & Soul Challenge will end Oct. 2 at the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute Rhythm Run at Martin Luther King Park in Grand Rapids.

But, in a more important sense, Body & Soul won’t end that day … or on any other. It can’t, really.

People were changed through their participation, this year and last. Transformed.

I saw fuller lives at Fuller Park. It’s tough to go back once you’ve been there.

Michigan business owners express concerns over health care reform

Lack of cost containment, onerous tax reporting among biz concerns over health care reform

What can Michigan businesses expect as federal health care reform gains momentum? That was the big question being asked during a Health Care Reform: Defined event and panel discussion Tuesday at the Detroit Regional Chamber.

The answer, of course, depends upon many factors, including the shape of yet-to-be-written regulations and how the Nov. 2 election shakes out in both Washington, D.C. and Lansing. But the consensus was that businesses will likely need help both from tax and employee-benefit advisors as well as from statewide insurance exchanges set to be established in 2014.

One of business’ biggest concerns about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was the lack of measures to contain costs, experts said.

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Health reform at 6 months: No more exclusions or waiting periods for children with pre-existing health conditions

National health reform turns six months old on Sept. 23, when a variety of new rules and regulations take effect. In this week-long series, we highlight how benefits will change for consumers in the near term. You can also find videos, news alerts, RSS feeds and other information at our health reform website.

Those of you who are parents know that there are few things worse than having a sick child, especially when their condition requires serious and oftentimes costly medical attention.

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Health reform at 6 months: Protecting your choice of doctor and access to emergency services

National health reform turns six months old on Sept. 23, when a variety of new rules and regulations take effect. In this weeklong series, we highlight how benefits will change for consumers in the near term. You can also find videos, news alerts, RSS feeds and other information at our health reform website.

Much was made during the reform debate about protecting peoples’ rights to choose their own doctor and have access to emergency services without worrying about higher costs if they go to an out-of-network emergency room. Within a part of the legislation, called “The Patient’s Bill of Rights,” there are requirements around these two issues. So what does that mean to you?

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Health reform at 6 months: The sun sets on lifetime dollar limits for care

National health reform turns six months old on Sept. 23, when a variety of new rules and regulations take effect. In this weeklong series, we highlight how benefits will change for consumers in the near term. You can also find videos, news alerts, RSS feeds and other information at our health reform website.

Lifetime dollar limits on care will go the way of the 8-track tape, pinball machine and floppy disk when the federal health care reform law hits the six-month mark.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act bans lifetime dollar limits for what it deems “essential health benefits” effective Sept. 23. The prohibition applies to all health plans, new or grandfathered, for plan years that begin on or after that date.

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Health reform at 6 months: Free checkups and tetanus shots, anyone?

National health reform turns six months old on Sept. 23, when a variety of new rules and regulations take effect. In this weeklong series, we highlight how benefits will change for consumers in the near term. You can also find videos, news alerts, RSS feeds and other information at our health reform website.

Health insurers will be required to cover a host of preventive services and immunizations with no cost sharing for members under a requirement of national health reform soon to take effect. Cost sharing is when health plans – or employers offering health plans – require members to cover some costs associated with their coverage, such as co-payments for doctors’ office visits or for medications.

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Health reform at 6 months: Eligibility for dependent coverage extends to age 26

National health reform turns six months old on Sept. 23, when a variety of new rules and regulations take effect. In this weeklong series, we highlight how benefits will change for consumers in the near term. You can also find videos, news alerts, RSS feeds and other information at our health reform website.

With health care reform approaching the key six-month milestone, we’re reminding people that employers and health insurers will be extending coverage to dependents up to age 26 during a special enrollment period this fall.

Blue Cross first announced an agreement in April between the federal government and health carriers regarding the continuation of dependent coverage to age 26. Starting Sept. 23, the provision will apply to nearly all group and individual health plans.

Previously, dependents over the age of 18 often could only be kept on their parents’ policies so long as they were in college and not married. The new reform law loosens these restrictions.

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2010 West Michigan Policy Forum Highlights the Impact of Health Care in Michigan

Yesterday and today business leaders and state and local lawmakers from across Michigan are gathering in Grand Rapids for the 2010 West Michigan Policy Forum. While in Grand Rapids their goal is to discuss, develop and strengthen regional policy and goals to further improve our state. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network are key sponsors and supporters of this event.

Health care challenges concerning west Michigan business leaders will be one of the main discussion points during the conference.

Jeffrey L. Connolly, president for West Michigan Operations and Managed Care for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, is joining other leaders from the health and medical industries in a rapid exchange session titled The Impact of National Health Care on Friday, Sept. 17. Discussion topics will range from health care reform to regulatory issues to affordable health care for small businesses.

Having your voice heard in regards to Michigan’s future should be important to everyone, especially when it relates to the future of health care. Do you plan on attending the conference? What health care topics would you be most interested in hearing Michigan’s leaders discuss? We’d like to know your thoughts.

For more information about the 2010 West Michigan Policy Forum visit: http://www.grandrapids.org/policyforum.

Blue Cross kicks off wellness efforts across the state

September is here, and it’s a perfect month for getting back into the swing of a schedule, especially with kids going back to school. It’s also a great time to start a regular exercise regime and slip other healthy choices into our daily routines.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network are sponsoring several fun community wellness initiatives to help Michiganders get moving and motivated to live healthier this month.

Join the movement (literally!) and participate in one of the events going on in local communities:

Run for Your Heart community races Body and Soul Blue Fitness Challenge

While Blue Cross is here to take care of you when you’re sick, we’re also here to help you stay healthy and fit all year round.

All of these events are focused on living well and promoting healthier life choices for everyone. Healthy eating and benefiting from physical activity – it’s all part of how we’re leading Michigan to a healthier future. Won’t you join us?

Technology, medical equipment driving health care costs

The rising cost of health care has been a topic of intense national debate over the past two years, as legislators, health care experts and insurance companies ponder the reasons for the high cost of care and explore possible solutions.

Most studies addressing the reasons for rising health care costs put technology at the top of the list.

As Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan President and CEO Daniel J. Loepp pointed out at an employee meeting, “Everyone today wants the newest, the best equipment. And every new machine costs significantly more than the last. As a culture, we demand the newest and best.”

What he didn’t say, but implied, was that the newest, the best and the most expensive don’t necessarily correlate with better health care.

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