A full year after COVID-19 vaccines were made available in the U.S., the coronavirus continues to sicken and kill people, with nationwide deaths from the illness surpassing 800,000. As demonstrated in a collection of headlines, Michigan’s hospitals are being stretched to treat COVID-19 patients across the state.
Legislation Signed to Delay Sequestration Cuts
President Joe Biden signed legislation Dec. 10 to stop Medicare cuts to hospitals, physicians and other providers from going into effect early next year. As urged by the MHA and the AHA, both the U.S. Senate and House recently voted to pass the legislation.
Specifically, the bill would extend the moratorium on the 2% Medicare sequester cuts until March 31, 2022, and reduce the cuts from 2% to 1% from April 1 through June 30, 2022. The package also would stop the 4% statutory Pay-As-You-Go sequester from taking effect early next year. Other provisions in the package would mitigate a separate Medicare payment cut to physicians; delay payment cuts and private payer data reporting requirements for certain hospital laboratories; and more (see related article). Members with questions may contact Laura Appel at the MHA.
Licensing Flexibility Passes Legislature, Awaits Governor’s Signature
The state Legislature completed work Dec. 14 on Senate Bill 759, which allows healthcare workers licensed in another state to work in Michigan during times of great need (see related article). The MHA issued a media statement both thanking legislators for their support of licensing flexibility and encouraging Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to sign the bill into law as soon as it’s enrolled.
Members with questions may contact Adam Carlson at the MHA.
State Approves Additional Tier-2 COVID Relief Facilities
Fifteen additional Tier-2 COVID Relief Facilities (CRFs) were recently approved by the state at a time when post-acute placements are critically needed.
Tier-2 CRFs can keep their own COVID-19-positive residents and are able to admit new residents who test positive only if additional capacity is needed and the nearest COVID Recovery Center (CRC) is more than 25 miles away or at maximum capacity with patients positive for the disease.
With the additional facilities, there are currently 27 CRFs in the state. While this is a positive development, the number is significantly lower than the more than 100 CRFs the state had approved before starting its annual renewal process in October. That process took nearly a month to approve the additional facilities. The MHA continues to advocate that the state not use an annual application process for approving CRFs due to the time involved and the delays it causes for hospital transfer.
In addition, Michigan currently has no Tier-2 CRFs north of Grayling. Therefore, the MHA is urging the state to work with facilities in the northern Lower Peninsula and Upper Peninsula to quickly approve them as CRFs. Members with questions may contact Paige Fults at the MHA.
Changes Continue with Legal Action on Vaccine Mandates
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a ruling Dec. 15 ordering the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) vaccine mandate rule to resume in about half of the country while saying 24 states are not subject to the mandate. This means that the mandate is back in place for Michigan, requiring healthcare workers to be fully vaccinated. However, the suspension of enforcement of the mandate continues.
The Fifth Circuit upheld the Louisiana district court’s preliminary injunction as applied to facilities in the 14 states that are plaintiffs in the case. An additional 10 states that are plaintiffs in a Missouri case do not need to comply with the mandate while the injunction stands. Michigan is not a plaintiff in either lawsuit.
The American Hospital Association (AHA) provides a blog with the latest details of the CMS vaccine mandate cases, as well as an update on an appeals court ruling challenging the Occupational Safety and Health Administration vaccine mandate.
The recent court actions are additional steps toward the suits eventually being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. These legal actions do not impact individual organizations’ vaccine policies. Members with questions should contact Amy Barkholz at the MHA.
Additional information on the COVID-19 pandemic is available to members on the MHA Community Site and the MHA COVID-19 webpage. Questions on COVID-19 and infectious disease response strategies may be directed to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Community Health Emergency Coordination Center (CHECC)