Report tracks area health care, jobs outlook

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Paul Isely discusses the 2014 Health Check January 10 at the Eberhard Center.
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Paul Isely discusses the 2014 Health Check January 10 at the Eberhard Center.
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More than 45 percent of area businesses have passed additional costs to workers as a result of implementing the Affordable Care Act, according to a report by Grand Valley researchers.

Economics professors Sonia Dalmia and Paul Isely released results of their report, “Health Check: Analyzing Trends in West Michigan 2014,” on January 10 during the fifth annual health care summit sponsored by Grand Valley.

The 2014 report includes survey results regarding the impact of the Affordable Care Act on local businesses in Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon and Allegan counties. Dalmia and Isely used findings from the survey conducted by economics professor Leslie Muller in collaboration with Priority Health and found 48 percent of companies have passed additional costs to workers and 40 percent are considering that option. Seventy-six percent of employers have, or are creating, wellness plans for employees.

Health Check 2014 also was able to show how performing the suggested tests for diabetics would reduce costs by 10 percent compared to not doing the tests. In addition, the report showed how having diabetes combined with other conditions increases costs. These results support the effectiveness of testing diabetic patients for complications.

Other key findings are noted below.

• Although colleges and universities in West Michigan are generating 745 new registered nurses annually, this still falls short of the projected annual demand for nurses by more than 100.

• Binge drinking in West Michigan increased 2 percent in 2012 compared to 2010. Heavy drinking is higher in West Michigan than southeast Michigan.

• More than 36 percent of West Michigan residents were overweight in 2012; this trend is similar to the number reported in 2010. However, the rate of obesity in the area dropped slightly to 27.3 percent.
 
• About 10 percent of West Michigan residents are diabetic; researchers said the number tracks closely to obesity.

Jean Nagelkerk, vice provost for Health, said if the risk factors in the area, like those listed above, continue to trend upward, it could pose challenges to the cost of health-related services and the number of health professionals in the area.

The full report is available online at www.gvsu.edu/vphealth. It was made possible by a grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Blue Care Network, and Priority Health.