5 Things Michigan: Capitol insiders, K-12 COVID outbreaks, Barriers to care


Emily Boerger


Over the last few months, Patrick Jones has been doing great work leading our reporting of health reform and health policy in Michigan. He is part of a seven-member news room at State of Reform, led by our managing editor, Emily Boerger. It’s a strong team I’m very honored to be a part of.

We are now covering health policy in 15 states: from Michigan to Hawaii, Virginia to Utah. All of this effort is funded via your support of our annual health policy conference. We don’t charge to read our reporting. We simply ask that you consider joining us and a few hundred of your closest friends in Michigan health care each spring at our conference. That support keeps our lights on to do this work.

So, thank you for letting us play this role in Michigan health care and take up a little space in your inbox. I appreciate it.





With help from Emily Boerger

1. Q&A: Phillip Bergquist, MPCA

Phillip Bergquist is the chief operating officer at the Michigan Primary Care Association (MPCA) and leads its engagement with state and federal legislation. In this Q&A, Bergquist highlights MPCA’s priorities in the FY 2022 Health and Human Services budget, including their support of an alternative payment methodology for primary care.

Bergquist says: “So the general idea behind the alternative payment methodology is to go from an…encounter-based reimbursement system to a per-patient system [where] you’re reimbursed regardless of the number of encounters that patient has with your care team. So, in the budget we’re focused on a one-time investment to help make that transition possible.”


2. Where session is headed in the coming months

With the legislature back from summer recess, State of Reform Reporter Patrick Jones caught up with a couple of capitol insiders for a look at the health policy that will be top of mind in the coming months. Representatives from the Michigan Association of Health Plans and the Michigan League for Public Policy say the most important pieces of legislation for the remainder of session include two plans for mental and physical health integration, and the House’s 15-bill bipartisan health care package.

MAHP Deputy Director Brian Mills says both health integration plans – one from Sen. Mike Shirkey and one from Rep. Mary Whiteford – aim to “tackle a broken system.” While MAHP believes either plan would be beneficial for Michiganders, Mills says Shirkey’s plan is their preferred option in that it would require “extreme collaboration” and force integration more overtly.


3. Recommendations to address barriers to care

A report from the University of Michigan found patients on opioid treatments are not receiving adequate care due to significant administrative barriers to primary care and specialty pain clinics. For example, the report found that across the country, 40% of primary care clinics were “unwilling to accept new patients taking opioids for chronic pain” due to fear of liability/litigation and administrative headaches, among other concerns.

The research team convened a group of experts who developed 11 recommendations to address these barriers. Top ranked recommendations, according to the panel, include: establishing reimbursement models for chronic pain to provide appropriate compensation for all care providers, creating an integrated care model and expanding upon the Michigan Medicaid Health Home model, and supporting training to help address the biopsychosocial factors of chronic pain management.


4. K-12 schools lead in new COVID outbreaks

On Tuesday, MDHHS reported there were 30 new COVID outbreaks in K-12 school settings. This represents the most new outbreaks (28%) of any setting tracked by the department. Last week, there were just 9 new outbreaks in these school settings.

Amidst protests and tension surrounding mask mandates in schools, the latest data from Gov. Whitmer’s office indicates 229 school districts covering 60.5% of students in the state have opted for mask policies. Though Michigan has so far avoided the worst of the Delta surge, experts still urge caution as 77% of hospital beds and over 78% of ICU beds are currently occupied.


5. Health systems sign formal integration agreement

Last week, Beaumont Health and Spectrum Health System signed a formal integration agreement, taking the next step in their effort to create a new health system. The merger would bring together Beaumont Health’s eight hospitals and more than 33,000 employees, with Spectrum Health’s 14 hospitals and over 31,000 employees.

In June, when the systems signed their letter of intent, the Economic Alliance for Michigan raised concerns about the merger and its potential to raise health care costs in the state. The health systems hope to launch the new system after the state and federal regulatory review process, under the temporary name BHSH System in the fall.