July 30, 2021
July is nearly over, which means enjoying the last moments of summer and awaiting the upcoming school year. I hope you all continue to enjoy the warm weather and stay healthy.
Included in this newsletter is an update on consumer concerns related to flooding, as well as information on avoiding scammers posing as state Food Assistance Program workers, helpful tips on student loans, updates on designations for driver’s licenses, news about an increase in Legionnaire’s disease in the area, and information on upcoming health plans in the Marketplace.
Should you need any help, please do not hesitate to contact my office by phone at (517) 373-8360 or by email at SenPWojno@senate.michigan.gov. We are happy to serve you.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: CONSUMER PROTECTIONS AND FLOODING
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is sharing an update after recent flooding throughout Metro Detroit created opportunities for price-gouging and scams related to the cleanup.
Specifically, Nessel re-issued three consumer alerts to help consumers know their rights and responsibilities in the following areas:
Last week, President Joe Biden approved a disaster declaration from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, which will bring much-needed federal funding to the area to assist in ongoing cleanup efforts following flooding last month. Additional flooding occurred again last weekend in some areas.
To file a complaint with the Attorney General or get additional information, contact:
Michigan Consumer Protection Division
P.O. Box 30213, Lansing, MI 48909
Toll free: 877-765-8388
Online complaint form
CONSUMER ALERT: FOOD ASSISTANCE SCAM
On Tuesday, July 20, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Director Elizabeth Hertel reissued a warning on the state’s Government Imposter Consumer Alert website in response to a scam related to the State’s Food Assistance Program (FAP).
The automated text, shown below, was sent from the Chicago area. The individual who received the text immediately contacted MDHHS.
While this specific example doesn’t explicitly reference Michigan, it’s meant to make the recipient think it’s from a trusted source. MDHHS sends texts from a 517 or 800 area code, refers people to Michigan.gov websites, and doesn’t use outdated terms such as “food stamps.” MDHHS does not use text messages to notify people they are eligible for benefits.
Here are important reminders to help protect against similar scams:
Anyone who wants to apply for food assistance or other benefits can do so through Michigan.gov/MIBridges.
STUDENT LOANS: BE ALERT AND INFORMED WHEN CONSIDERING OPTIONS
As Michiganders prepare for the upcoming fall semester and start paying their college tuition bills, the Michigan Department of Treasury’s MI Student Aid Team is asking students and their families to be alert and informed when considering student loans.
To make the best decision regarding student loans, the MI Student Aid team recommends seven financial aid best practices tips:
COMMUNICATION IMPEDIMENT DESIGNATION CAN NOW BE ADDED TO DRIVER’S LICENSE
Last week, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson was joined by representatives from several autism and deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing advocacy groups to discuss recent changes to Michigan law allowing residents to add a communication impediment designation to their driving record to help ensure better, safer interactions with law enforcement.
The communication impediment designation program was developed to assist law enforcement in their interactions with the public. Being alerted to the needs of individuals with a communication impairment will assist law enforcement in their interactions with these individuals, promoting clarity and understanding. Environmental factors, such as flashing lights and sirens, can also be controlled to help individuals who are sensitive to that type of external stimulation.
The communication impediment designation program is voluntary and there is no cost to apply. The designation is not printed on the actual license, ID, or vehicle registration, but added to the individual’s record. To add the designation, individuals may submit a communication impediment designation form to the department by mail, email, or fax. Forms may also be submitted during a branch office visit.
A licensed physician, physician assistant, certified nurse practitioner, or physical therapist must certify the individual requires special consideration when communicating. Legislation to add audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and psychologists to the list of health care professionals allowed to certify an individual’s special communication needs is currently pending.
MICHIGAN EXPERIENCING INCREASE IN LEGIONNAIRES’ DISEASE
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is coordinating with local health departments across the state to investigate a recent increase in reports of Legionnaires’ disease, an infection with symptoms that include fever, cough, and pneumonia.
Between July 1 and July 14, roughly 107 cases of Legionnaires’ disease were reported in 25 counties — including Macomb. While increases in cases are often related to environmental factors, including heat and rainfall, this represents a 569% increase from referrals from the same period in 2020 (16 cases) and a 161% increase from referrals from the same period in 2019 (41 cases). To date, no common sources of infection have been identified.
Confirmed cases include 19 in Wayne County, 17 in Oakland County and in the City of Detroit, and 15 in Macomb County. Transmission to people occurs when mist or vapor containing the bacteria is inhaled. Legionnaires’ disease does not spread from person to person. Risk factors for exposure to Legionella bacteria include:
Most healthy individuals do not become infected after exposure to Legionella. Individuals at a higher risk of getting sick include the following:
Individuals with any concerns about Legionnaires’ disease or exposure to the Legionella bacteria should talk to their doctor. MDHHS and local health departments will continue to monitor cases and provide updates to the public. More information on Legionella and Legionnaires’ disease can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
NEW CONSUMER CHOICES ON HEALTH INSURANCE MARKETPLACE FOR 2022
The Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) has reported that consumers will have more health plan options from an increased number of insurers for the upcoming year during the open enrollment period.
Open enrollment for 2022 coverage runs from November 1 through December 15, 2021, and Michiganders can obtain coverage by visiting the Health Insurance Marketplace or by calling 800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325). As always, DIFS encourages consumers to carefully shop around to find the best plan for themselves, their families, and their budget.
Michiganders who still need health coverage for 2021 are encouraged to take advantage of low and no-cost health insurance options that are available under the current special enrollment period which runs through August 15. Additional information is available on the DIFS website or by calling the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Service at 877-999-6442.
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