MHA Board of Trustees Meeting Focused on Managing COVID-19 Response

The MHA Board of Trustees focused its April 22 conference call almost exclusively on the needs of providers, patients and communities dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The board began its meeting with a guest presentation from Paul Keckley, PhD, national healthcare policy expert, industry analyst and author of The Keckley Report. Keckley outlined his predictions about the pandemic’s effect on national healthcare reform discussions, the role of insurance plans, existing payment model reforms, the growing federal deficit and the influence of private equity in the acquisition of medical groups.

Following the presentation, the board received reports on the status of state and federal funding to hospitals, noting that Michigan has appropriated $150 million of new money related to the COVID-19 crisis thus far, but now faces a $2 billion budget shortfall. On the federal side, the initial allocation of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding brought $468 million to Michigan hospitals, and additional funding bills are currently under discussion. The board directed the MHA to continue working with the state to refine state and federal data collection through the state’s tool, known as EMResource. Noting the growing public pressure on the state to publish hospital- and health system-specific COVID-19 data, the board directed the association to use its own data tools to provide more meaningful and accurate information than that the state currently uses through the creation of a COVID-19 data dashboard (see related article). The board also discussed the status of testing, supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) needs within the state. Staffing, facility capacity and challenges transferring nonacute patients to appropriate skilled nursing care were also highlighted.

The board concluded its meeting with a discussion of Gov. Whitmer’s Executive Order (EO) 2020-17, which restricts nonessential procedures at hospitals, freestanding surgical outpatient facilities and dental facilities. While this policy was crucial to ensure that needed medical supplies and inpatient capacity would be available to meet the needs of the surging pandemic, the many strong social distancing measures taken by Michiganders has begun to bend the curve and moderate the surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations in many areas of the state. Healthcare providers are now beginning to appropriately consider the healthcare needs of patients whose care has been pending over the past several weeks or who have delayed seeking needed medical attention out of concerns about the capacity of Michigan hospitals. The board discussed conversations that have taken place among Michigan’s chief clinical officers and regional chief medical officers on resuming time-sensitive procedures and discussed additional clarifications from the governor’s office on EO 2020-17. The statement from the governor’s office clarified that hospitals are directed to follow their existing emergency care plans and authorized clinicians to use their medical judgement to determine which additional services may be brought back online to avoid any further significant impact on the health, safety and welfare of the patient. Board members raised concerns with delays in care of all kinds.  To assist the MHA membership, the association has begun working on a strategy to assure the public that appropriate medical services can be safely accessed with appropriate precautions. Members with questions about the MHA Board of Trustees meeting should contact Amy Barkholz at the MHA.