I hope you had a wonderful holiday!
Michigan’s experience with COVID has garnered national attention this past month. Despite temporarily decreasing from their all-time high in early December, COVID hospitalization rates are again climbing in the state due to the Omicron variant.
Below, MHA’s Adam Carlson details how Michigan hospitals are faring during this surge and what can be done to help the struggling facilities. Also included in our January newsletter: some valuable insight on state health policy from HMA’s Dave Schneider, the Michigan Primary Care Association’s priorities for 2022, and some health legislation that might soon become law as the legislature prepares to return to work.
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State of Reform
1. As Michigan breaks COVID records, hospital workforce bills could be essential
In December, Michigan reached its highest-ever COVID hospitalization rate and had the highest hospitalization rate in the country. Although these numbers have decreased slightly since the holidays, MHA’s SVP of advocacy Adam Carlson says hospitals are still struggling to keep up with patient needs and are seeing an unprecedented number of staff being unable to work due to the impact of the Omicron variant.
Staffing issues, says Carlson, are the main driver of hospital strain. MHA is supporting HB 5523—a budget bill allocating $500 million to employers—in the upcoming session in order to increase staffing. Last month, Gov. Whitmer signed an executive order creating the Nursing Home Workforce Stabilization Council and President Biden announced he’s sending emergency response teams to the state to support the workforce.
2. Q&A: HMA’s Dave Schneider on SIP legislation, LTSS, and health equity
Dave Schneider, managing principal at HMA’s Lansing office, expects the legislature to act on BH integration in February or March of this year. In a recent Q&A with State of Reform, he offered his predictions for the 2022 legislative session, his thoughts on how to increase vaccination rates, and his insights on health disparities.
Schneider wants to see Michigan build on its My Choice Waiver, which—despite Gov. Whitmer allocating additional funds to it in her 2021 budget—he says isn’t broad enough and needs to cover aging Michiganders in addition to just the elderly. He hopes to see the state resume its work to implement a managed LTSS service in 2022, which it put on hold due to COVID.
3. The vision for Michigan primary care in 2022
Michigan Primary Care Association CEO Philip Bergquist recently told State of Reform that MCPA’s work to build a stronger health equity foundation this past year—including establishing a new “director of health equity and social justice” position—will help it focus on specific health disparities in 2022. The organization plans to focus on maternal health in particular this year, having already started interviewing mothers and pregnant people in the state to learn more about the barriers they face in health care.
Chief Innovation Officer Rob Pazdan said MCPA is also prioritizing IT implementation to allow providers to focus less on administrative issues and more on caring for patients. Pazdan explained that the ViruALLY IT service gives MCPA helpful resources like EHR support and a fully assisted remote monitoring management system.
4. Health bills in the last stretch of the legislature
Ahead of the Michigan Legislature’s reconvening on Jan. 12, both chambers are slated to hear several health-related bills that are in the final stretch of the legislative process. Among the health bills scheduled for a third reading in their second chamber is Rep. Sue Allor’s bill to prohibit the government from requiring vaccination passports in order to use public services.
Other on-deck legislation includes Sen. Curt VanderWall’s bill to exempt individuals under five years old from any state-mandated masking requirements, Sen. Dale Zorn’s bill to have Michigan join the Physical Therapy Licensure Compact, and Rep. Annette Glenn’s bill to reimburse the cost of licensure renewal for health professionals who are unable to work due to a public health emergency declaration.
5. Case study panel: ‘On the ground: Michigan’
Our upcoming virtual 2022 State of Reform Federal Health Policy Conference will include four “case studies” of individual states and their health policy. The “On the ground: Michigan” panel will convene health policy leaders in the state to talk through some of its unique policy pursuits that other states can potentially learn from.