The legislature returned the week of September 19 to continue work on several pieces of legislation that the MHA is currently monitoring. Committees met in both the House and Senate and passed legislation that included several new bills supported by the MHA in the areas of behavioral health, rural emergency hospitals, speech therapist licensure and telemedicine.
The House Health Policy Committee delivered the first testimonies about new legislation to make changes to the pre-admission screening process for behavioral health patients. House account (HB 6355)introduced by Rep. Graham Filler (R-St. Johns) and supported by the MHA, would rethink the requirement that pre-admission screening units administered by the Community Mental Health (CMH) services program complete a mental health assessment within three hours of admission. given by a hospital informed of the patient’s need. If a pre-admission screening unit is unable to complete the assessment within the three hour time frame, HB 6355 would also allow a clinically qualified individual in a hospital who is available to perform the required assessment.
Kathy Dollard, psychologist and director of behavioral health for MyMichigan Health, joined the committee to testify in support of HB 6355. “Strengthening our behavioral health system includes strengthening our behavioral health workforce and that can begin with creative solutions such as providing clinically qualified hospital staff the opportunity to conduct pre-admission screenings,” Dollard said. HB 6355 was not voted on at this initial hearing.
MHA employees also testified during the commission on HB 6380. Introduced by Rep. Andrew Fink (R-Hillsdale), HB 6380 would make necessary changes to state law to allow hospitals in Michigan to pursue a new federal designation of “Rural Emergency Hospital” (REH) status. A REH designation comes with important requirements, such as limiting the total number of beds to 50, maintaining an average length of stay of 24 hours or less, and a required transfer agreement with a Level I or II trauma center. Hospitals that choose to transition to a REH will receive a higher federal reimbursement to provide critical emergency and outpatient services, especially in geographic areas.
Lauren LaPine, director of small and rural hospital programs, MHA, and Elizabeth Kutter, senior director of advocacy, MHA, testified in support of the legislation. “HB 6380 enables rural hospitals in our state to continue to provide care in our most rural communities,” said LaPine. HB 6380 has not been voted on.
Initial testimonials about two bills previously reviewed by MHA’s Legislative Policy Panel also appeared during the committee. Senate Bill (SB) 811introduced by Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington), would extend the length of time for a person to complete a temporary speech-language pathologist license and extend the validity of those temporary licenses. The MHA supports SB 811, which received no votes this week.
Members of the House Committee also gave their first testimony SB 450, that would ensure that visitors of cognitively handicapped patients are admitted into healthcare facilities. The bill, filed by Senator Jim Stamas (R-Midland), would prohibit the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) or a local health official from issuing an order prohibiting a patient representative from visiting a cognitively impaired person in a healthcare institution. As written, the law does not prevent a healthcare facility from taking reasonable security measures for visitors and will still allow the facility to limit the number of representatives per patient. The MHA is neutral on the bill and will continue to monitor the measures taken.
The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services has issued its first testimony on: SB 1135which was introduced by Senator Mike MacDonald (R-Macomb Township). SB 1135 would specify that previous extensions of Medicaid’s telemedicine coverage also apply to the Healthy Michigan Program and the Michigan Medical Assistance Program. Notably, the legislation would require continued coverage for audio-only telemedicine services. The MHA supports SB 1135, which would continue the virtual care policy that has proven effective and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Testimony was given to the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee about another MHA-backed bill to regulate kratom sales in Michigan. Kratom is a substance of concern with opiate-like effects that has no approved medical use in the United States. HB5477introduced by Rep. Lori Stone (D-Warren), would create a license to sell and manufacture kratom, require product testing and require new safety warnings for kratom substances sold in Michigan. While the MHA favors a federal Schedule I ban on the drug, the association supports HB 5477, which will help curb adolescent addiction and prevent counterfeit products from entering the market.
Members with questions about these accounts or other state laws should contact: Adam Carlson at the MHA.