5 Things Michigan: State-based exchange bill, MDHHS Keynote video, Q&A w/ Linda Vail


Eli Kirshbaum


This month’s edition of “5 Things We’re Watching” includes a run-down of bills we’re watching in the legislature, additional coverage from our conference, and a conversation with Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail.

Thank you for reading!

Eli Kirshbaum
State of Reform


1. State-based exchange, lead poisoning bills considered in legislature

The Michigan Legislature is considering joining the 18 other states that have established state-run health insurance marketplaces through HB 6112. Having an exchange run by the state instead of the federal government, supporters of the bill say, will save Michiganders money by leaving the “rigid and inflexible” federal market for a Michigan-tailored market that can be more responsive and potentially lower premiums. The bill is still in the early days of the legislative process, awaiting a vote from the House Health Policy Committee.

Lawmakers are also weighing an effort to require blood lead tests for all minors in the state—the legislature’s latest move to address lead poisoning. Parents can currently choose to opt their children out of such tests, but lawmakers who support the bill say mandating such tests will help ensure early detection of lead poisoning. Notably, the Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics opposes the legislation.


2. Lunch Keynote: An update from MDHHS

MDHHS’s Chief Deputy for Health, Farrah Hanely, delivered the Lunch Keynote at last month’s 2022 Michigan State of Reform Health Policy Conference. She updated our audience on Michigan’s unique health funding structure, its plan to improve health equity, and more.

Hanley explained that MDHSS reorganized itself to fill health equity gaps after seeing the disparities brought to light by COVID-19. “This department restructure has really developed into a [system] where now we have more contract oversight, more financial oversight, and really taking a look at our complex grants and programs,” she said. See Hanley’s full remarks here.



3. What They’re Watching: Phillip Bergquist, MPCA

In pursuit of a “future-oriented payment approach,” MPCA is working to move the state away from fee-for-service payment models to a more flexible, capitated, “global” payment style. This is according to the organization’s CEO Phillip Bergquist, who filled us in on MPCA’s priorities at last month’s conference.

This summer, MPCA is launching a new training program focused on hiring staff more intentionally to better-fit the mission and work of a given role. “We need to start building our own workforce—thinking about the occupations where we can bring folks into organizations like community health centers that are great fits for the mission and the people that we’re trying to serve, and then help them develop the skillset that they need to fit into those roles and be part of our care teams,” he said.



4. Q&A: Linda Vail, Ingham County Health Officer

Linda Vail, Ingham County’s Health Officer and a speaker at our recent conference, is concerned about the continued prevalence of COVID-19 misinformation and its impact on public health. In this Q&A, Vail discusses the consequences of misinformation, her county’s health priorities over 2 years into the pandemic, and how it’s addressing health equity.

“The misinformation trickles down into appropriate treatment … The treatments that we know have been authorized by the FDA continue to get attacked, and then that causes confusion and concern,” Vail said. “Those things are not helping, especially in communities where there is already a lack of trust with the medical system. That’s the last thing we need to throw at people who are already vulnerable.”


5. Future of Michigan abortion policy uncertain as Roe v. Wade hangs in balance

In the midst of a national debate surrounding a likely overturn of Roe v. Wade, Michigan’s divided political climate complicates its approach to abortion policy. State of Reform Reporter Patrick Jones recently wrote an overview of steps the state is taking in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s leaked decision and Gov. Whitmer’s move to repeal a near-century-old law banning abortions in the state.

Whitmer’s joint lawsuit with Planned Parenthood to repeal the 1931 law—which bans all abortions, even in cases of rape or incest—on the grounds that it’s unconstitutional was granted a preliminary injunction by the Michigan Supreme Court on May 17th. This safeguards abortion protections under Roe until the court rules on the case, even if the US Supreme Court overturns Roe this summer. Michigan’s Republican-led legislature, contrarily, stands ready to enforce its pro-life agenda and support an overturn of Roe.