During the week of March 21, the Michigan Legislature advanced several bills related to MHA priorities, including legislation to change the prior authorization process for commercial insurers, expand the Essential Health Provider Loan Repayment Program, and to provide supplemental appropriations to implement statewide broadband. Hospital testimony was also provided to the House Health Policy Committee on the ongoing staffing crisis for Michigan hospitals.
Senate Bill (SB) 247, which would decrease wait times for commercial insurance prior authorization requests, is now heading to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s desk for signature. Introduced by Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington), the legislation would shorten the timeline for approval to seven calendar days, or 72 hours for urgent requests, as well as ensure that emergency care can be provided without prior approval. Both the House and Senate voted during the week of March 21 to advance the bill before legislative spring break. The MHA provided testimony in support in both chambers and has shared a letter with the governor encouraging her to sign the bill.
The governor March 24 signed SBs 246 and 435 into law, which will expand the allowable use of the Essential Health Provider Loan Repayment Program. The two MHA-supported bills would increase the total allowable repayment from $200,000 to $300,000 and make certain mental health professionals eligible for the program. An MHA-proposed amendment to SB 435 was added in the House that will extend the sunset on the Physician Licensure Compact, which was set to expire March 28. More information on the program is available on the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services website.
The Michigan Legislature passed SB 565, sending the $4.7 billion supplemental appropriation bill to the governor for signature. The new spending was infrastructure focused, including $250 million and eight new full-time positions for the Michigan High-Speed Internet Office (MIHI). The MHA supports the MIHI funding, which will help Michigan take advantage of available federal funding to ensure access to reliable broadband for telehealth.
In the House Health Policy Committee, Julie Yaroch, DO, president of the Charles and Virginia Hickman Hospital, spoke to members on behalf of the MHA about the ongoing staffing crisis. Yaroch shared how the shortage is directly impacting her hospital, as well as the data from the most recent MHA survey that revealed there are 50,000 open positions across the state, with an average hospital vacancy rate of 16.6%. She told the committee that “staffing shortages took an average of 1,200 beds offline during the most recent surge, which in terms of bed capacity is equivalent to pulling the entire U of M Health System offline.”
Questions regarding state legislation affecting healthcare should be directed to Adam Carlson at the MHA.