Michigan House health committee tackles ways to improve mental health statewide

Finding ways to improve mental health continues to be at the center of the House Health Policy Committee in the Michigan Legislature. 

At its recent meeting on June 16th, the committee discussed bills that would require mental health parity reports to state organizations and reduce Certificate of Need (CON) requirements for psychiatric beds and programs. 

 

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House Bills 61376139 would formalize a federal mandate to annually report mental health parity in state law and allow state regulators to receive and act upon these reports in a more streamlined manner, rather than going to the federal government. 

Tim Clement, Director of Legislative Development at the American Psychiatric Association, said many insurers have trouble with the complexity of the exact specifications and requirements of the federal mental health parity reporting laws. This legislation would not only formalize that process, but assist plans across the state work with state institutions to produce these reports. 

“There is no new requirement for the insurers,” Clement said. “They just have to hand over [the reports they already compile], so in Michigan, we can know whether or not insurers can provide that mental health and addiction coverage in accordance with existing law.”

The committee also discussed removing some of the “bureaucratic burden” of CONs in the state, said Sen. Curt VanderWall’s (R-Cadillac) Legislative Director Jordan Jorritsma. Michigan currently has 18 CON services while 40% of people in the US do not live with any CON requirements. Nearby states, like Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, have no CON requirements at all. 

“These are common sense reforms in our CON requirements, which will eliminate some of the red tape and unnecessary costs in our health care field,” Jorritsma said. 

Senate Bills 181, 182, 183, and 190 act as a package. SB 181 would modify the requirements to obtain a CON for air ambulance, an increase in psychiatric beds, and certain psychiatric programs. SB 182 increases members on the CON commission from 11 to 13, SB 183 would provide general amendments to CON services, and SB 190 would require psychiatric hospitals and clinics to accept public patients as a condition of their licensure.

Diana Prichard, Community Engagement Director at Americans for Prosperity, said CONs are leading to higher costs, lower quality, and less access for patients in the state. She said CONs stifle innovation and make it challenging to providers and patients to choose where and how they get care. 

“These bills will unfortunately not repeal the CON law and it that way it will not increase the quality of care, reduce the cost, and increase access as much as we would like to see,” Prichard said. “But they are a very small first step in the right direction, and we believe that it is a first step worth taking.”

Jenifer Nyhuis, CEO at Havenwyck Hospital, testified in opposition to the package saying it would only exacerbate an already limited workforce. She said this would increase competition for staffing as hospitals would have no barrier from expanding and creating more beds. As beds already cannot be fully staffed, she said the last thing needed is an easier way to even further widen that gap. 

“Trying to have a significant change at this time when the resources are thin and the staffing is as fragile as it is at this moment, it would just create a significant disruption to the sector of care that is currently suffering,” Nyhuis said. 

Both bill packages are awaiting a vote in the committee.