5 Things Michigan: COVID-19 surges, Rural health challenges, Topical Agenda

My Gonzaga Bulldogs were outplayed last night by the Baylor Bears, who won the NCAA Men’s College Basketball National Championship. After 22 years straight of going to the post-season tournament, Gonzaga has just two national championship appearances and zero titles in their run.

I’m reminded, however, that the first effort to reform our health care system started in 1947 with President Truman. Like Gonzaga, the US health care system has had mixed success and performance since then, with moments of enthusiasm balanced with moments of cynicism.

Those 74 years of two-steps-forward-one-step-back in health reform puts the frustration from Gonzaga’s 22 years in some perspective. All things in context, I guess…





With help from Emily Boerger

1. Health policies cross over to the Senate

All 15 bills included in the House’s bipartisan health care plan have passed out of the House and have been referred to the Senate Committee on Health Policy and Human Services. Among the list of recently-passed bills is HB 4346, a bill that would cap insulin co-pays at $50 for a monthly supply, HB 4348, which would regulate Pharmacy Benefit Managers, and HB 4349, which aims to increase hospital price transparency.

Lawmakers also passed HB 4355, a bill that would allow out-of-state health professionals to provide telehealth services to Michiganders. During a committee meeting, Rep. Ann Bollin said her interest in this reform came about because one of her constituents was unable to secure an out-of-state specialist appointment for her husband who had esophageal cancer. The Legislature is currently on break but will reconvene on April 13.

2. The challenges of rural health care

Bob Crumb is the CEO of Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital, a 12-bed critical access facility located in Manistique. In this Q&A, Crumb describes how his hospital has dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic and gives us a run down of the issues rural hospitals like his are facing.

Crumb says hospitals were able to transition to telemedicine early on in the pandemic, but he remains concerned about the lack of broadband access on the Upper Peninsula where he says many places still don’t even have cellular service. “I think our patients may get left behind…So it’s more our fear that if another pandemic comes, and [patients are] afraid to go to the hospital and they can’t access telemedicine, they’re just not getting care at all.”


3. ICYMI: Topical Agenda now available

In case you missed it, last week we released the Topical Agenda for the 2021 Michigan State of Reform Health Policy Conference coming up on May 27th! It’s a set of topics pulled together from scores of hours of conversations with our Convening Panel, key stakeholders, and sponsors. We’ll be exploring politics and policy in health care, discussing health care cost drivers, and diving deep into COVID’s impact on our mental health, health equity, and the workforce.

You can view the Topical Agenda here for a sense of the conversations we have teed up, and if you have suggestions for speakers let us know! If you haven’t already registered, we’d be honored to have you join us!


4. Michigan COVID surge highest in US

Michigan now leads the country in COVID-19 cases per capita after the virus surged across the state in recent weeks. The latest data from the CDC show Michigan with a case rate of 452.5 per 100,000 individuals over the last 7 days. The next highest state is New Jersey with 343.9 per 100,000. Michigan recorded more than 8,400 new cases on Saturday, the highest daily case count since December.

In response to the surge, Michigan will receive a boost in its vaccine allocation starting this week. Cases come after some COVID-19 restrictions were made more lenient in recent weeks, but Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has indicated she has no intention of ordering new restrictions despite the recent surge.


5. What are pharmacists looking for in the budget?

With negotiations for Michigan’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget set to get under way in the coming months, the Michigan Pharmacists Association (MPA) hopes to see provisions that support small business pharmacies. Specifically, the Association hopes to see Section 1625 protected, which provides an extra dispensing fee to certain pharmacies in the state to help them with administrative costs.

They’re also advocating for reimbursement for Medicaid Training Management. The reimbursement would direct payments to pharmacists for educating patients on how to use devices, along with performing other checkups such as blood glucose or blood pressure checks.