Governor Gretchen Whitmer delivered her 2022 State of the State Address last Wednesday. In health care priorities, she focused on progress in access to mental health services and efforts to lower the cost of insulin in the legislature.
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Whitmer highlighted that 40% of Michiganders don’t receive needed mental health services. Because of this, access to behavioral health and mental health services is a top priority for the administration.
Monique Stanton, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy, said increasing access points to behavioral health care, mental health care, and care for substance use disorder (SUD) is crucial as the rate of overdoses in the state continues to rise.
Stanton said the recognition from the state and legislature on the effect the pandemic has had on mental and behavioral health has led to an openness among decision makers to talk about expanding access, retaining workforce, and promoting equity across the aisle.
“You see a recognition across the aisle on how this is an essential issue. You are seeing a focus on the workforce development piece and the expansion of mental health professionals in schools.”
Whitmer specifically highlighted the need to expand the health care workforce in order to expand access to services. She called for an expansion of the Michigan State Loan Repayment Program to help employers recruit and retain health care providers—especially behavioral health providers—by providing student loan repayment to those entering specific service obligations.
“We need to invest in our mental health workforce so we can put Michiganders first and ensure they have the support and resources they need to thrive,” said Whitmer. “Every Michigander deserves access to both mental and physical healthcare. To boost access, we need to expand the Michigan State Loan Repayment Program, build on our work to hire more counselors, social workers, and psychologists on school campuses, and implement parts of my MI Healthy Communities proposal to increase capacity for community-based behavioral health.”
Robert Sheehan, CEO of the Community Mental Health Association of Michigan, said:
“Governor Whitmer’s proposals to close the behavioral health workforce shortage through focused loan repayments build upon and expand the capacity of Michigan’s nationally recognized community mental health system, foster the sustainability of school-based mental health services and close the coverage gap are exactly the kinds of innovative proposals needed to advance mental health care in Michigan.”
Sheehan is a member of our Convening Panel for our 2022 Michigan State of Reform Health Policy Conference and is speaking at our upcoming 2022 State of Reform Federal Health Policy Conference on behavioral health.
Whitmer also highlighted the legislature’s efforts to reduce costs on pricey drugs, especially on the cost of insulin. HB 4346 would cap the out-of-pocket cost of insulin at $50 a month, and is currently sitting in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
Currently, the average cost of a single vial is almost $100. Most individuals with diabetes use up to two or three vials a month, totaling about $3,600 a year, said Whitmer. She said:
“For years, drug companies have been jacking up insulin prices. The average price tripled from 2009 to 2019. They reap billions on life-saving medicine because without serious competition, they name their own price. That is unconscionable.”
In response, Attorney General Dana Nessel launched an investigation into Eli Lilly this week—one of the three largest drug companies that manufactures insulin in the U.S.—under the Michigan Consumer Protection Act (MCPA). The investigation seeks to find the role that drug companies had in the “grossly excessive prices”, according to a press release from Nessel’s office.