5 Things Michigan: Vaccinations, COVID appropriations, Mental health

Welcome to our first edition of 5 Things We’re Watching in Michigan health care. I hope you’ll find some of our journalism below helpful to you as you work to improve the Michigan health care system.

And, if you know of someone who may be interested in our coverage of the nexus of health care and public policy, you can forward them this message. They can subscribe to the newsletter here.





With help from Emily Boerger

1. Appropriations bills move forward

After Gov. Whitmer unveiled her $5.6 billion COVID-19 economic recovery plan, House Republicans were quick to follow up with their own pared-down plan, which would use $2.4 billion in federal dollars and $1.1 billion in state funds. On Wednesday, lawmakers in the House Appropriations Committee passed a series of bills allocating billions in COVID relief funds.

House Bill 4019, sponsored by House Appropriations Chair Rep. Thomas Albert, includes adjustments for the Department of Health & Human Services. The bill that passed out of Appropriations includes $143.7 million in federal funding for COVID testing and contact tracing, $510.7 million to support a 15% increase in monthly SNAP benefits through June, and $22.6 million to administer and monitor vaccine distribution.


2. MI gets 1 million shots in arms

Michigan is one of just nine states to have administered over 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses. Of that group, it ranks first in terms of the percent of vaccines in arms. Wednesday counts show Michigan has so far received 1.6 million doses from the federal government and has administered 1.04 million doses, or 64%.

To reach herd immunity, experts say at least 70% of the population will need to be vaccinated. In Michigan, that will require 5.6 million people (11.2 million total shots) for those age 16 and up. Last week the state averaged about 37,000 shots per day and at that rate, it will take about 9 more months to reach the 70% goal.


3. Bills referred to health committees

Twelve bills have so far been referred to the House Health Policy Committee. Among the list of bills we’re tracking is HB 4008, related to vaccine exemptions during pandemics, and HB 4046 which would add Michigan to the Nurse Licensure Compact.

The Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee will hold a hearing this afternoon on SB 18 which would enter Michigan into the Physical Therapy Licensure Compact. Other bills referred to the Senate committee include SB 6 and SB 7, which would set regulations related to invasive bodily exams, and SB 19, which would allow certain retired medical first responders to obtain a special retiree license to volunteer their expertise.


4. What the data says about us

Recent US economic data shows 2020 was the worst year for economic growth since 1946. In Michigan, 55.8% of 5.9m responding to a recent survey said they felt “down, depressed or hopeless” at least “several days” in the last week. 9.5% of Michigan residents received “counseling or therapy from a mental health professional” in the last seven days. However, another 12.3% said they “Needed counseling or therapy from a mental health professional, but did not get it for any reason.”

Of those responding, 17.5% said they were in households with children where “sometimes” or “often” there was not enough food to eat. Of those yet to receive the first dose of the vaccine, 25.6% say they may not get it at all, 10.3% of those say they will “definitely not get a vaccine.” Another 11.3% say simply they “Don’t believe I need a vaccine.”


5. Pharmacists discuss policy priorities

After over 30 years with the Michigan Pharmacists Association, CEO Larry Wagenknecht, officially retired in January. Prior to his retirement, Wagenknecht spoke to State of Reform about MPA’s mission, its policy goals for the 2021 legislative session, and the work for his successor.

He says implementing pharmacy benefit manager transparency regulations and providing reimbursement for pharmacists offering health care services are top priorities. “Pharmacists do a lot of things outside of their standard duties but are not compensated for them. Nurses, physician assistants and others are compensated for similar work, and we want pharmacists to be compensated as well.”