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Former Rep. John Delaney on the opioids crisis; a field organizer for Sen. Kamala Harris on campaigning in Iowa; and a President Donald Trump supporter who cares more about numbers than personalities.

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Saving Lives and Money: Michigan Celebrates Family Physicians

It is Family Medicine Week in Michigan. From birth to death, Michigan's family physicians treat patients at all stages and ages. (MAFP)
It is Family Medicine Week in Michigan. From birth to death, Michigan's family physicians treat patients at all stages and ages. (MAFP)
February 20, 2017

MUSKEGON, Mich. -- They can deliver babies, take care of parents, and see grandparents through their golden years - and research shows Michigan's family physicians play an important role in the state's physical and financial health as well.

Dr. Tina Tanner is a longtime family medical provider in Muskegon who has cared for as many as five generations of the same family. She said not only is it logistically easier on families to all see the same doctor, studies have shown family physicians bring many benefits to communities, including lower overall healthcare costs.

"Lower rates of infant mortality, higher birth rates, higher immunization rates,” Tanner said, "as well as decreased deaths from things like stroke, heart disease, cancer."

In recognition of the role family physicians play in communities across the state, Gov. Rick Snyder has declared February 19-25 Family Medicine Week in Michigan.

The 2014 expansion of the state's Medicaid program, known as Healthy Michigan, meant that 650,000 low income residents had health insurance - many for the first time.

Tanner said she has many new patients who, in the past, had to use the hospital emergency room for routine care.

"While they can do it, they do it at a much higher cost than will happen in my office,” she said. "So, by just shifting that burden from the emergency room into a primary care office, we've saved the state already."

While Michigan is considered a leader for its number and quality of medical schools, Tanner said it's noteworthy that the state ranks 48th in the nation for the average salary of primary care physicians. She said the state would benefit from more family practice doctors, but many medical students can't afford to consider it because of the heavy student debt burden they carry.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI