5 Things Michigan: Legislative update, New medicines, BBB legislation


Eli Kirshbaum


This month’s edition of “5 Things We’re Watching” includes a rundown of Sparrow Hospital workers’ informational picket, rural health leaders’ thoughts on workforce and SUD/OUD, and information on our upcoming “5 Slides” conversation.

I encourage you to send me any feedback or tips that you have. Thank you very much for reading!


Eli Kirshbaum
Health Policy Reporter
State of Reform

1. Sparrow Hospital employees hold picket to protest working conditions

Employees of Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital picketed outside the facility yesterday to protest its alleged inaction on staffing shortages and workplace safety. Sparrow’s employees say it’s using the pandemic as an excuse to not spend money on workforce retention, while the facility claims it has put considerable effort into bolstering its workforce.

“There isn’t a shortage of nurses and health care workers in the state — there is a shortage of [those] who refuse to work under the current conditions that hospital executives have [implemented],” said Katie Pontifex of the PECSH-MNA union. Sparrow made an offer to the union last Thursday that included a 4% general wage increase and a one-time bonus of $1,000 for all full-time employees.


2. Q&A: Michigan Center for Rural Health on workforce and SUD/OUD

The Michigan Center for Rural Health’s executive director John Barnas says his organization is working hard to eliminate the stigma against OUD and SUD — diseases many rural Michiganders suffer from. In this Q&A, Barnas and his colleague Crystal Barter also detail some of the programs they’re implementing to address the state’s rural workforce shortage.

Barnas says MCRH utilized HRSA grants to convene a group of 36 organizations representing 14 counties to develop a plan to address the Lower Peninsula’s OUD/SUD crisis. The Center’s efforts to replenish the rural workforce include working with the Michigan Department of Labor to hire more medical assistants in the Upper Peninsula and using HRSA grants to incentivize OUD/SUD providers to work in northern lower Michigan.


3. Registration for “5 Slides: The policy implications of new medicines” is now open

How can we ensure that novel medicines are affordable for those who need them when they hit the market? Our upcoming “5 Slides: The policy implications of new medicines” conversation will convene a group of subject matter experts to explore this pressing question, and include a little Midwest flavor.

The discussion will feature Cheryl Larson, president & CEO of Midwest Business Group on Health, Robert Popovian, PharmD, senior health policy fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, and Laura Minzer, president of the Illinois Life and Health Insurance Council. Register for free to join us on Nov. 16 from 12:00 to 1:00 PM ET!


4. Vaccine passport prohibition, BH/PH integration advance in legislature

Bills prohibiting vaccine passports and integrating behavioral/physical health are among the recent health policies on the move in the legislature. Read a breakdown of some of the active health bills — including the 15-bill bipartisan health care package — here.

State of Reform also spoke to Amy Dolinky, senior advisor of MDHHS’s Michigan Opioids Strategy, about HB 5163 and SB 579 — two on-the-move bills they’re supporting to expand MAT services. She said a critical aspect of the bills is their intent to accelerate overdose patients’ transitions from the hospital to community based organizations.

5. The health-related provisions of the revised BBB plan

With the release of President Biden’s scaled back “Build Back Better” plan last week, State of Reform columnist James Capretta broke down some of the health policy items that made their way into the president’s updated domestic agenda. He emphasized that more health-related items could be added to the plan in the near future as negotiations continue at the capitol.

The revised BBB plan includes Medicare coverage for hearing services and a permanent 6% FMAP increase for states offering HCBS. It also provides fully subsidized ACA marketplace coverage for individuals in the coverage gap from 2022-2025, dropping its previous provision of offering fully federalized Medicaid coverage to these individuals starting in 2025 over concerns that it was unfair to states that have expanded Medicaid and thus bear 10% of expansion costs. Read Capretta’s full analysis here.