Combating the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): Week of March 14

MHA Covid-19 update

MHA Covid-19 updateAs Michigan begins the third year of living with COVID-19, new cases, hospitalizations and deaths are trending downward and hopes are high that a new variant will not emerge to cause another surge of disease. The state reported there were 2,770 cases recorded for March 17 and 18 (including about 825 cases attributable to older lab results), 648 adults and children were hospitalized with confirmed and suspected cases, and 50 deaths caused by the disease were recorded over the two-day period. These numbers are fractions of what was seen in December and January, when Michigan hospitals were at or near inpatient capacity.

The MHA continues to keep members apprised of pandemic-related developments affecting hospitals through email updates and the MHA Coronavirus webpage. Important updates are outlined below.

MIOSHA Will Not Increase COVID-19 Inspections of Healthcare Facilities

Barton Pickelman, director of the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) within the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, has confirmed that MIOSHA will not be conducting additional, focused, COVID-19 compliance inspections of healthcare facilities in Michigan. Although a March 2 memo issued by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a 90-day COVID-19-focused inspection initiative for hospitals and skilled nursing care facilities, Pickelman noted that MIOSHA and other state plans are not required to adopt the federal OSHA initiative. Because MIOSHA has already conducted state emphasis programs for healthcare over the past two years, it is not adopting the federal inspection initiative.

Separate from the OSHA inspections, surveyors from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) will continue to check for compliance with requirements of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and state licensing agencies during regular survey visits or in response to specific complaints. LARA will confirm that facilities have written policies and protocols in place surrounding COVID-19 screening processes, are following their policies as written, and that these policies and protocols can allow either active or passive screening procedures, consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For more information, contact Laura Appel or Amy Barkholz at the MHA.

MHA Creates State/Federal COVID-19 Guidelines Tracker for Providers

To help hospitals and health systems keep track of COVID-19 guidelines, the MHA has developed a document outlining state and federal COVID-19 protocols for healthcare personnel, including vaccination, masking and COVID-19 testing guidelines from both the CDC and the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (MDHHS). The downloadable tool can be found on the MHA’s website on the COVID-19 webpage under Resources for Healthcare Professionals. Those with questions may contact Lucy Ciaramitaro 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 MDHHS Community Health Emergency Coordination Center (CHECC).

Combating the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): Week of Jan. 10

MHA Covid-19 update

MHA Covid-19 updateThe state of Michigan held a press conference Jan. 11 to discuss the rapid rise in case numbers, hospitalizations (especially pediatric hospitalizations) and positivity rates. Speakers urged all residents who are eligible to be both vaccinated and boosted as quickly as possible. Representatives from Children’s Hospital of Michigan joined the event to discuss the concerning rise in childhood case rates and hospitalizations.

The MHA continues to keep members apprised of pandemic-related developments affecting hospitals through email updates and the MHA Coronavirus webpage. Important updates are outlined below.

SCOTUS Upholds CMS Vaccine Mandate, Enforcement Proceeds

The U.S. Supreme Court issued decisions Jan. 13 on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) vaccine mandates. As expected, the court blocked the Biden administration from enforcing the vaccine or test mandate issued under OSHA, but upheld the ability of the CMS to enforce the healthcare worker vaccine mandate.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the constitutionality of state vaccine mandates in a variety of settings, as well as mandates by private employers. These challenges were different because they presented the question of whether Congress had authorized the executive branch to institute the requirements through the agencies of OSHA and the CMS/Department of Health and Human Services.

Michigan was not one of the 26 states covered by the court injunction to the CMS mandate, and Michigan has no other state-issued prohibitions on enforcing federal or private vaccine mandates. Hence, the mandate and enforcement move forward. The currently posted deadline for completing the first required vaccine dose is Jan. 27, and the second dose is required by Feb. 28. Boosters are currently not part of the mandate.

The MHA responded to a number of media inquiries following the Supreme Court announcement, including from The Detroit News, Detroit Free Press and MiBiz. The association reiterated its long-standing position that mandates of this kind should be left up to local healthcare decision-makers and that hospitals and the MHA have always urged every resident who is eligible to get vaccinated to protect themselves and others. The MHA also stressed that, while the small number of hospital workers who have already ended their employment due to an organization’s mandate did not necessarily worsen the existing staffing shortages, the timing of a nationwide mandate amid this omicron surge could not be worse, as the shortages are more serious than ever. The association assured reporters that hospitals will proceed with compliance and that the MHA and its members will continue to strenuously advocate for staffing assistance from federal and state partners.

Members with questions about deadlines, enforcement or other elements of the mandate are encouraged to review the posted CMS guidance to ensure their organizations are prepared to comply.

MIOSHA: Hospitals May Currently Use CDC Quarantine Guidance Without Penalty

The MHA has continued to work with state regulators on securing updated guidance for hospitals and health systems as it relates to worker quarantine periods. Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules have not yet been fully rescinded to allow for healthcare settings to confidently follow new, less restrictive Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) quarantine guidance.

However, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) has stated it was told OSHA is in the process of withdrawing the relevant rules and the state agency is preparing to update its rules to align with the revised federal rules. MIOSHA also indicated that, until updates are made at the federal and state levels, it will not issue citations specifically regarding quarantine and isolation requirements if an employer were following the Dec. 23, 2021, updated CDC guidance for healthcare personnel.

An existing OSHA provision recognizes the CDC’s ‘‘Strategies to Mitigate Healthcare Personnel Staffing Shortages.’’ This guidance allows elimination of quarantine for certain healthcare workers as a last resort if the workers’ absence would mean there are no longer enough staff to provide safe patient care, specific other amelioration strategies have already been tried, patients have been notified, and workers are using additional personal protective equipment at all times.

The MHA will continue to keep members apprised of developments on this issue. Members with questions may contact Laura Appel at the MHA.

Long-term Care Facility Capacity for COVID Care Increases

Michigan now has 50 Tier-2 COVID-19 Relief Facilities (CRFs) able to take COVID-19 patients from hospitals at discharge if their normal nursing facility isn’t able to accommodate them. This is an increase from just 27 CRFs late in 2021 and includes an Upper Peninsula facility in Hancock.

In addition, Michigan now has nine facilities designated as Care and Recovery Centers (CRC)s, including one in Escanaba in the Upper Peninsula.

The CRC and the CRF programs were established under Michigan Public Act 231 of 2020. These programs were designed to ensure Michigan’s nursing homes were prepared to provide care to individuals who have tested positive for coronavirus under transmission-based precautions within the guidelines and best practices from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Michigan’s nursing homes must be reviewed by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to ensure they meet the minimum criteria outlined within the legislation and associated MDHHS policies. Members with questions may contact Paige Fults at the MHA.

Red Cross Declares First Ever National Blood Supply Crisis

The American Red Cross declared a national blood supply shortage and operational crisis Jan. 10. This is the first time such a crisis has been declared, and it could impact hospitals’ ability to provide certain types of care or transfusions in the coming days and weeks. This is a result of the current COVID-19 surge causing canceled donation appointments, Red Cross staffing shortages and more.

The Red Cross chief medical officer sent a notification directly to hospital transfusion leaders outlining these operational challenges and how to plan for expected shortages. The Red Cross also urged the public to donate blood as soon as possible.

The MHA will be amplifying to the public the need for blood donors through its social and traditional media channels.

Michigan Sees Surge in Unemployment Fraud

Michigan has seen a recent surge in unemployment fraud claims, according to the MHA Unemployment Compensation Program (MHA UCP). The increase in unemployment fraud is related to identity theft that occurs when the state Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) system is penetrated. Over the past several weeks, the MHA UCP has seen fraud in about 15 to 20% of all new claims for its clients.

The MHA UCP has worked closely with the UIA on this issue and has mitigated the impact for clients, who have not been assessed charges on these claims. To learn more about the services available through the MHA UCP, contact Neil MacVicar at the MHA.

Additional information on the COVID-19 pandemic is available to members on the MHA Community Site and the MHA COVID-19 webpageQuestions on COVID-19 and infectious disease response strategies may be directed to the MDHHS Community Health Emergency Coordination Center (CHECC).

CEO Report — Incorporating a Federal Advocacy Strategy

MHA Rounds Report - Brian Peters, MHA CEO

“You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog.” – Harry S. Truman

MHA CEO, Brian PetersI have a dog — a beautiful German Shepherd that joined our family in the midst of the pandemic.  I know that many of you have a family dog too, and they are indeed wonderful friends. But as it turns out, the MHA family is also fortunate to have friends in Washington, DC, and never before has that been more important. 

Hospitals and health systems play a key role in their local communities, both as healthcare providers and economic engines. While much of the funding, regulatory, and other public policy decision-making occurs at the local or state level, the truth is that federal politics has become increasingly important, as decisions made at the federal level can have profound impacts on the healthcare delivered in Michigan. The dramatic increase in enrollment for both Medicaid (a shared state/federal program) and Medicare (a strictly federal program) is just one of many reasons why. 

Over the years, the MHA’s engagement at the federal level has increased dramatically, to the point where we have now established meaningful relationships with the entire Michigan congressional delegation and their staffers. These relationships were on display early in the pandemic when we were able to convene conference calls with our delegation — both Republicans and Democrats together on the line at the same time — to listen to our insights and requests and target much-needed assistance to our members who were dealing with a true crisis. We have done all the blocking and tackling that is instrumental to federal advocacy, including routine in-person visits to our delegation members’ DC offices, developing congressional district-specific data and talking points on key issues, coordinating closely with the government relations officers of our member health systems (including those with multistate operations), organizing fundraising events and much more.   

We are fortunate to have a very close partner in this regard: the American Hospital Association.  I’m happy to share that more than 100 of our Michigan community hospitals are also AHA members, a penetration rate that puts Michigan in the very top tier nationally. As a result, our voice is heard clearly as many Michigan healthcare executives are actively involved in the policymaking process of the AHA, serving on various committee and task forces, including the AHA’s Regional Policy Boards. In this manner, we are able to identify needs unique to our region and provide direct input on public policy — and political strategy — to the AHA.  On that note, we are fortunate that Michigan’s own Wright Lassiter, president and CEO of Henry Ford Health System, is now the chair-elect of the AHA Board. 

In addition, the MHA’s political action committee, Health PAC, also has a formal working partnership with the AHAPAC, allowing us to support our members of Congress in this important way.

Recent examples of this partnership in action include our advocacy to protect the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as well as the 340B Drug Pricing Program, and our efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Several weeks ago, the United States Supreme Court released its opinion in the California v. Texas case that challenged the constitutionality of the ACA. The opinion reversed the Fifth Circuit’s judgement in the matter and upheld the constitutionality of the ACA. The MHA was formally involved in the case, as we joined a number of other state hospital associations in filing an amicus brief with the Supreme Court. We are very pleased with this outcome, which will help to preserve coverage for as many Michiganders as possible — a key MHA priority.

The MHA has also been involved in the federal legal strategy to support the 340B Drug Pricing Program, which is a federal program created by Congress to help provide relief from escalating drug prices to safety-net hospitals and other healthcare providers serving vulnerable patient populations. Over the past year, six drugmakers have stopped providing discount drug prices for pharmacies that contract with 340B providers. The MHA is working with the American Hospital Association Advocacy Alliance for the 340B Drug Program and the 340B Health coalition to protect this vital program. Last fall, the MHA organized a letter to the Michigan congressional delegation that was signed by representatives from 68 of the more than 80 Michigan 340B hospitals to share hospitals’ concern regarding drug manufacturers’ attempts to limit payment to contract pharmacies and other actions that are a significant detriment to 340B hospitals and the services they can provide to eligible patients because of the program. The MHA also joined other state hospital associations earlier this spring in submitting an amicus brief in support of the AHA’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court for certiorari (a formal request to the court to take up the case) in its appeal of an appellate court decision unfavorable to hospitals on 340B.

Lastly, the MHA has been involved with various aspects of the COVID-19 response at the federal level, from advocating for provider relief funds to providing data and insights on the impact of the pandemic. In May, the MHA worked quickly to get a majority of Michigan’s U.S. House delegation to sign onto a letter urging Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra to extend the deadline for hospitals to use provider relief funds. This joint effort with the AHA and other groups ultimately led to the HHS announcing extended deadlines by which hospitals and other providers that received Provider Relief Fund (PRF) money may use their COVID-19 PRF payments. We also had several MHA members directly involved in submitting statements to Sen. Gary Peters on the impact of healthcare supply chain shortages during the pandemic, which were utilized by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that Sen. Peters chairs.

The MHA is currently working on a comment letter for the recently released federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS). Although the AHA achieved several improvements in the final proposed ETS, a number of issues remain. Because Michigan uses a state plan for OSHA regulation, MIOSHA adopted these rules June 22. The MHA is aware that the federal ETS is under regular review and amendments are possible. Filing comments brings attention to those parts of the rule that require further action.

Laura Appel, MHA senior vice president of health policy and innovation, has done an outstanding job as our point person on federal advocacy for many years now. I can tell you from firsthand experience that she knows her way around the federal policymaking process as well as she knows her way around the maze of offices on Capitol Hill. In addition, MHA Executive Vice President Chris Mitchell is serving as the chairman of the SAGRO (State Association Government Relations Officers) group, representing all the state hospital association advocacy leaders. MHA Chief Medical Officer Gary Roth, DO, is also serving as chairman of the SHAPE (State Hospital Association Physician Executives) group, leading his peers across the country. And for the past year I have had the privilege of serving as the chairman of the AHA State Issues Forum, which is the group of state hospital association CEOs focused on the strategic issues that we all share. Collectively, these engagements are just another indication of the stature and leadership of our association on the national level.

As you can see, our dedication to advocating for our members — and the pursuit of our mission to advance the health of individuals and communities — extends from Lansing to Capitol Hill. I am proud of the strong foundation that we have established in this regard and, given the increased focus on hospitals and healthcare in the national conscience as a result of the pandemic, I am convinced that our work at the federal level will continue to be critical. 

As always, I welcome your thoughts

Combating the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): Week of June 21

MHA Covid-19 update

The COVID-19 vaccines appear to be effective in protecting against serious illness from the more contagious delta variant of the virus. However, the variant continues to infect many in regions throughout the world, with news reports of renewed lockdowns in Australia and New Zeeland and increasing numbers of cases in U.S. states including Missouri, California, Florida and Texas, where fewer residents are vaccinated. Meanwhile, Michigan’s vaccine dashboard shows more than 61% of residents ages 16 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with nearly 9 million doses administered.

The MHA continues to keep members apprised of pandemic-related developments affecting hospitals through email updates and the MHA Coronavirus webpage. Important updates are outlined below.

Emergency Orders Rescinded Effective June 22

Several emergency public health orders that have been in place for much of the last 15 months are rescinded as of 12:01 a.m. June 22. The orders rescinded and the dates on which they took effect are:

  1. Gatherings and Face Mask Order (June 1, 2021)
  2. Temporary Restrictions for Entry into Congregate Care and Juvenile Justice Facilities (Oct. 29, 2020)
  3. Mandatory Testing for Michigan Department of Health and Human Services' Juvenile Justice Facility Staff (Sept. 18, 2020)
  4. Mandatory Testing for Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Hospitals and Centers Staff (Sept. 14, 2020)
  5. Exceptions to Temporary Restrictions on Entry into Congregate Care and Juvenile Justice Facilities (June 29, 2020)
  6. Exceptions to Temporary Restrictions on Entry into Certain Facilities (June 3, 2020)
  7. Safe Housing for Housing Unstable Individuals (May 12, 2020)
  8. Handling of Bodily Remains (May 4, 2020)
  9. Safe Housing for Michigan Homeless (April 28, 2020)

While the rescission of the facemask and hospital visitor restrictions would seemingly allow hospitals to stop screening visitors and make their own determinations about masking, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) announced new rules June 22 that essentially defer to the OSHA at the federal level. The OSHA rules currently in place still require healthcare facilities to screen visitors and require masks for employees. However, some exceptions are outlined by the OSHA for well-defined areas where employees are fully vaccinated; a flowchart on the OSHA website provides details. The OSHA also refers healthcare facilities to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations that continue to urge mask requirements for visitors. The MHA is reviewing the OSHA complete set of rules.

Because the MIOSHA adopted the OSHA rules by reference, the OSHA effective and compliance dates apply. The OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) is effective June 21, 2021. The compliance date for the ETS is July 6, 2021, with a few exceptions. Compliance with paragraphs (i) Physical Barriers, (k) Ventilation, and (n) Training is required by July 21, 2021.

As an interim final rule, the new OSHA standard is open for comment. The MHA will submit comments on behalf of its members after a more thorough review of the rule, and members are encouraged to share content for the MHA comment letter with Laura Appel. The MHA will continue to advocate with the MIOSHA for consistency in state and federal rules for healthcare settings and keep members apprised of any developments on this issue. Members with questions may contact Adam Carlson 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).