What to expect for health policy in the 2023 Michigan Legislature


James Sklar


With Michigan’s legislative session ending for the year, and Democrats taking control of both the Senate and House next year, there will likely be a major shift when it comes to healthcare policy making in Michigan. Sources recently told State of Reform that they suspect the next legislative session will focus on the direct care workforce, opioids, and social determinants of health. 


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Focus on direct care workforce

Since 2020, the Michigan Health and Hospital Association (MHA) has reported that Michigan has lost 1,700 hospital beds due to a lack of staffing. MHA emphasizes there is a staffing shortage based on lack of resources from the State, which creates problems ranging from longer wait times, reduced services, and difficulties transferring patients to the appropriate care setting.

In February 2022, Michigan legislators made a one-time short term investment for state hospitals in the amount of  $225 million from a $1.2 billion spending bill. The investment is for workforce recruitment and retention. However, MHA has said this is not enough for the long-term problem and these short-term solutions need to become one long-term solution.

The organization has affirmed its plans to prioritize this issue.

Focus on opioids

Overdose deaths remain a leading cause of injury-related deaths in the United States, and the majority of overdose deaths involve opioids. Around the country, progress was lost during the pandemic to curb opioid deaths. Michigan follows the national trend. Michigan’s number of annual deaths from opioid overdose include: 2017 – 1,941, 2018 – 2,036, 2019 – 1,768, 2020 – 2,738, and 2021 – 3,096.

Recent end-of-year legislative activity suggests lawmakers will continue to develop policy aimed at reducing these high rates of opioid deaths.

Opioid settlement money recently granted to the state will also be put toward fighting the opioid use crisis in the state.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been vocal about her ongoing support for efforts that address opioid use, having provided her administration’s Michigan Opioids Task Force with additional resources in September. She has called the opioid epidemic “the greatest health crisis of a lifetime.”


Focus on social determinants of health

In April 2022 CMS issued a rule change for beneficiaries who are dually eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. This new rule change is hoping to close health disparities by delivering person-centered integrated care that can lead to better health outcomes for enrollees and improve the operational functions of these programs.

The rule change requires state plans to assess certain social risk factors for their enrollees, which includes housing stability, food security, and access to transportation. These risk factors are all predictors of social risk and poor health for many dual eligibility beneficiaries.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has put addressing the social determinants of health at the forefront of its priorities. The agency created a comprehensive Social Determinants of Health Strategy for 2022-2024 that focuses on improving areas like housing, food security, and health equity.

Improving health equity is also a central part of MHA’s strategic plan and an important area of focus for the organization headed into the 2023 legislative session.