State and Federal Lawmakers Act on Important Healthcare Issues

During the week of Sept. 28, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget, and the Senate continued its work on several policy issues important to Michigan hospitals. In federal news, President Donald Trump signed a continuing resolution that, among other things, extends the deadline for repayment of the Medicare accelerated payment loan.

The governor signed the FY 2021 budget Sept. 30, which took effect Oct. 1. The agreement protects vital funding sources for patient care and expands access to healthcare services. In a time when other states have enacted Medicaid reductions, the MHA was successful in advocating for a significant 21.4% increase in outpatient Medicaid reimbursement rates for Michigan hospitals. It is the first such statewide increase since 2002 and will prove vital to Michigan hospitals as they continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state Senate passed the package of legislation relating to surprise medical billing, also known as balance billing, after making several changes while considering the bills on the Senate floor. Notable changes were to allow for the discretion of the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services to send payment disputes to arbitration and to remove language that allowed insurers to send provider payments directly to consumers. Due to those changes, the bills will return to the House for another vote before being presented for the governor’s signature. The MHA remains neutral on this surprise billing legislation. The Senate also unanimously passed MHA-supported Senate Bill (SB) 1021, a bill introduced by Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) that would allow for Canadian healthcare licenses to be considered valid in Michigan.

In the Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee, the Amy Barkholz, general counsel, MHA, testified in support of legislation to provide limited liability for healthcare facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. House Bill (HB) 6159 was introduced by Rep. Roger Hauck (R-Union Township) and would codify language similar to that found in the governor’s executive order protecting healthcare providers from liability during the peak months of the pandemic. The committee also took testimony on HB 4958 and SB 1081, bills that would define and ban nonconsensual pelvic examinations. Those MHA-supported bills were introduced by Rep. Pamela Hornberger (R-Chesterfield Township) and Sen. Paul Wojno (D-Warren).

The president signed a continuing resolution very early Oct. 1 to extend the federal budget through Dec. 11, averting a government shutdown. Among its other provisions, the resolution delays the deadline for hospitals to begin returning federal funds received through the Medicare accelerated payment loan program. This temporary budget deal will extend the time for when repayment begins, when the balance must be repaid in full and when interest begins to accrue on the loans, in addition to lowering the interest rate. Michigan hospitals were slated to begin loan repayment Jan. 1, 2021, but may now wait until one year after the funds were received to begin repaying those loans.

Members with questions should contact Adam Carlson at the MHA.