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New partnership brings sleep medicine studies to the uninsured in Michigan

Posted at 6:25 AM, Mar 05, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-12 11:18:38-04

As many as 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders. That’s a big deal because restful sleep is critical for good health – physically and mentally.

However, for many Michiganders without health insurance, access to sleep medicine has been out of reach.

A new partnership between the University of Michigan and The Hope Clinic in Westland and Ypsilanti is among the first in the nation to provide free sleep care to the uninsured, making a good night sleep more that just a dream.

No matter the reason, millions of Americans struggle to slip into sweet dreams. Sleep medicine can help, if you have insurance.

When you don't have health insurance, you don't have access to sleep medicine. And this is an expensive field because sleep medicine relies on technology," Dr. Galit Levi Dunietz, from the University of Michigan Medical School's Department of Neurology.

Dunietz is an associate professor at the University of Michigan Medical School's department of neurology.

As part of a department-wide health equity initiative, she’s bridging the healthcare gap by teaming up with The Hope Clinic for one of the country's first free sleep clinics.

"They already have some subspecialties like dermatology, and they have general neurology. But what they really need is sleep medicine," she said.

An inpatient sleep study can cost $3,000-$4,000 a night. But using a grant from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine Foundation, this new clinic bought home sleep apnea testing devices and CPAP machines to treat sleep apnea. It drives down the costs and opens up sleep care.

Dunietz says the uninsured are more likely to have sleep problems, driven by social and lifestyle factors like obesity, high blood pressure, asthma and diabetes.

Sleep deficiency can make these problems worse. Undiagnosed sleep apnea is estimated to cost the country $150 billion annually.

Other sleep disorders, related health problems, lost worker productivity, and accidents send the cost even higher.

The response to the free clinic has been enthusiastic, from referring doctors and the patients, who show their appreciation by showing up.

"Usually, free clinics have a large no-show rate. Our clinic had the lowest no-show rate across all specialties, their subspecialties. [00:09:08][11.9]

The partnership with the University of Michigan sleep clinic and The Hope Clinicis only available to current patients.

Duneitz says the wait time is much lower than at traditional clinics. Her patients are being seen in six to eight weeks.

Patients at other clinics are waiting up to 6 months.