Early registration for Legislative Conference ends on March 15

County officials have through March 15 to register for the 2022 Michigan Counties Legislative Conference in Lansing. While on-site registrations will be accepted starting on day 1 of the conference, March 21, the member fee will rise to $435, as compared to the early-bird rate of $395.

Click here to start your registration process.

As of mid-day Friday, the Radisson Hotel in Lansing reported that 13 rooms were still available at the conference room rate of $142.95. However, the hotel does have additional rooms at retail rates.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will keynote the conference, addressing a plenary session on Wednesday, March 23.

The 2022 event, co-hosted by the Michigan Association of Counties and the Michigan County Medical Care Facilities Council, also will feature:

  • A MAC Legislative Update, led by Deena Bosworth, director of governmental affairs
  • Remarks from MAC President Phil Kuyers of Ottawa County and Executive Director Stephan Currie
  • Breakout sessions on current challenges for county leaders, including workforce development, the Open Meetings Act, trends in mobility on Michigan roads, American Rescue Plan spending and how to deal with stress in these stressful times
  • A Legislative Reception on the evening of Tuesday, March 22, during which MAC will present its County Advocate Awards for legislative service in 2021

The conference will be an in-person event, though MAC plans to livestream select breakout sessions on Facebook.

Your conference registration fee provides access to all conference events, snacks at the Radisson Hotel on Monday afternoon, the Legislative Reception with appetizers and beverages, two breakfasts at the Lansing Center (Tues-Wed), lunch on Tuesday at the Lansing Center and a boxed lunch on Wednesday you can take with you on your journey home.

Commissioners who attend the conference will receive credit in MAC’s County Commissioner Academy.

The Michigan County Medical Care Facilities Council (MCMCFC) has its own specialized workshops with members that offer Continuing Education credits.

 

Broadband funds stalled as state office remains unstaffed

Michigan ranks among the bottom half of states for broadband connectivity, an unfortunate fact that was all too apparent during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The silver lining in this digital deficit, however, is that it now positions the state well in terms of federal funding assistance to connect homes and businesses.

The federal government has allocated several different pots of money for accurate broadband coverage mapping, planning for expansions and for the physical components and labor necessary to allow everyone in Michigan to connect at the speeds they need. Unfortunately, the money necessary to start this process must be appropriated by the Michigan Legislature before the state can hire the necessary staff to direct the process. 

Through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP), $250 million was allocated via the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund. Ten percent of this sum has already reached the state, but it cannot be deployed until a supplemental spending bill is passed to allocate the funds for and staff the Michigan Highspeed Internet Office. Timing of this appropriation by the Legislature is critical to meet the planning report deadline in September 2022. 

With the more recent enactment of the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), Michigan is slated to receive between $100 million and $1.3 billion, based on connectivity maps outlining the unserved and the underserved under the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program. The Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for this program will be May 16, 2022, and Michigan will have six months to create a 5-year action plan to be eligible for the funds.

In addition, funding is available via:

  • The Digital Equity Act, which contains competitive grants for planning and implementation. This NOFO is also slated for May 2022. While an exact allocation is not yet known, the state estimates an additional $1 million.
  • The Competitive Middle-Mile Program, which totals $1 billion nationwide.
  • The ReConnect program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which would have $550 million under the current version of the FY23 federal budget proposal.

Staffing the MIHI office should be priority no. 1, followed by accurate mapping, planning and submission of reports to receive all available funds. MAC will continue to monitor the state supplemental bills and opportunities to increase access to broadband across Michigan.

For more information on this issue, contact Hannah Sweeney at sweeney@micounties.org.

 

MAC executive director joins statement urging legislative action on investing ARP funds

With Friday marking the 1-year anniversary of the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), Dan Gilmartin, Executive Director and CEO of the Michigan Municipal League, and Stephan Currie, Executive Director of the Michigan Association of Counties, issued the following statement on behalf of the Coalition for a Strong and Prosperous Michigan:

“While the COVID-19 pandemic caused immense suffering across the state, the American Rescue Plan Act has also given cause for hope. The $6.5 billion in federal stimulus allocated to Michigan through this landmark legislation offers our state leaders a once-in-generation opportunity to strategically invest in our collective future.

That’s why we have come together as business and labor leaders, policy experts and local officials to present a unified strategy that leverages these funds for a maximum return on investment. We urge our legislative leaders and the Governor to use the Michigan Prosperity Roadmap we have provided to invest Michigan’s ARPA dollars in ways that improves the economic value of thriving communities, advances equity, builds community wealth, supports entrepreneurship, prioritizes the need for talent and spurs business development.

It is vital that Michigan’s leaders put these funds to use as quickly as possible so that our communities and citizens can experience the fullest economic recovery possible, and we look forward to working with the Legislature and Governor Whitmer toward that goal.”

Read more about the Coalition for a Strong and Prosperous Michigan and its plan for leveraging the state’s American Rescue Plan Act dollars at www.miroadmap.com.

 

Next Podcast 83 live session is Monday, March 14

MAC’s Podcast 83 team will again be gathering for a live broadcast, this time on Monday, March 14 at 4 p.m.

Among topics to be covered will be updates on:

  • Mental health privatization legislation
  • Legislation for reimbursements on veteran property tax exemptions
  • Final preparations for the 2022 Legislative Conference

To join this session, which will include a Q&A segment, just use this Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82867692853.

If you missed last week’s live episode, you can view it anytime on MAC’s YouTube channel.

And, of course, you can find links and information on any prior Podcast 83 episode on its webpage.

 

MAC, allies continue push to block mental health privatization

Senate bills that would privatize the state’s mental health system remain on the Senate floor, as MAC and other organizations work to defeat the legislation, which is strongly backed by Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Jackson).

The Senate placed Senate Bills 597-598 on the general orders calendar on Wednesday and adopted an updated version, but that has not changed MAC’s opposition — nor that of other opponents. MAC remains opposed to altering our public mental health system by giving financial control and decision-making powers to private insurance companies.

County elected officials, mental health advocates, labor and religious organizations and others continue to express great concern with the proposed policy change. More than half of Michigan’s counties have approved resolutions sharing great concern with the Senate bills, which could devastate services to thousands of individuals and their families who depend on the public behavioral health system for daily and lifelong supports.

In addition to the policy bills, Senate Bill 714, also introduced by the Sen. Shirkey, received an updated version that would increase spending from $350 million to just shy of $540 million. A $15 million fund shift from local funds to the state general fund for Medicaid mental health services is included, but it’s tied to whether SBs 597-598 become law.

Please continue to reach out to your senator directly with MAC’s advocacy tool and share information from MAC and our allies:

For more information on this issue, contact Meghann Keit-Corrion at keit@micounties.org.

 

MDHHS resets program for substance use testing

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Office of Child Welfare Services and Support released new program instruction this week regarding substance abuse testing. The new instruction discontinues the use of Averhealth for substance use testing.

MDHHS has directed staff to use other providers and will pay 100 percent of the costs associated with screening and testing for MDHHS supervised cases. Courts are no longer required to pay these costs and seek reimbursement through the Child Care Fund.

The following documents were issued by MDHHS this week:

  1. 2021-001 program instruction (OBSOLETE), for reference
  2. 2022-001 Obsoletion of Program Instruction 2021-001
  3. 22-025, Children’s Services Agency Communication Issuance

Please direct any questions to Theodore Jay, manager of federal compliance & child welfare funding, at JayT1@Michigan.gov.

 

Webinar to focus on ‘destigmatizing’ opioid treatment

A March 29 webinar will focus on how courts can be more supportive in dealing with those with opioid use disorders.

Supportive Courts: Integrating and destigmatizing Opioid Use Disorder Treatment will run from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. and “provide information on how courts, specifically treatment courts, can support local opioid use disorder treatment efforts. Training will address the stigma surrounding medication assisted treatment (MAT), provide evidence of treatment effectiveness for justice-involved populations, and encourage coordination with community and jail-based treatment programs to improve clinical and legal outcomes.

“MAT has been a polarizing treatment effort that, despite its proven efficacy, has caused concern amongst drug courts and jail systems alike. As criminal justice leaders, it is imperative to use evidence-based practices that have reliable results in a rehabilitative setting, which can be mutually beneficial to both the courts as well as on an individual level,” MDHHS stated in announcing the webinar.

Click here to register.

Speakers the Honorable Shannon A. Holmes and Probation Director Wright N. Wade will share their experience leading specialty courts at the 36th District Court in Detroit. This is part two of a three-part series on Opioid Treatment Ecosystem implementation.

 

With Friday marking the 1-year anniversary of the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), Dan Gilmartin, Executive Director and CEO of the Michigan Municipal League, and Stephan Currie, Executive Director of the Michigan Association of Counties, issued the following statement on behalf of the Coalition for a Strong and Prosperous Michigan:

“While the COVID-19 pandemic caused immense suffering across the state, the American Rescue Plan Act has also given cause for hope. The $6.5 billion in federal stimulus allocated to Michigan through this landmark legislation offers our state leaders a once-in-generation opportunity to strategically invest in our collective future.

Currie

That’s why we have come together as business and labor leaders, policy experts and local officials to present a unified strategy that leverages these funds for a maximum return on investment. We urge our legislative leaders and the Governor to use the Michigan Prosperity Roadmap we have provided to invest Michigan’s ARPA dollars in ways that improves the economic value of thriving communities, advances equity, builds community wealth, supports entrepreneurship, prioritizes the need for talent and spurs business development.

It is vital that Michigan’s leaders put these funds to use as quickly as possible so that our communities and citizens can experience the fullest economic recovery possible, and we look forward to working with the Legislature and Governor Whitmer toward that goal.”

Read more about the Coalition for a Strong and Prosperous Michigan and its plan for leveraging the state’s American Rescue Plan Act dollars at www.MIRoadmap.com.

MAC, allies continue push to block mental health privatization

Senate bills that would privatize the state’s mental health system remain on the Senate floor, as MAC and other organizations work to defeat the legislation, which is strongly backed by Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Jackson).

The Senate placed Senate Bills 597-598 on the general orders calendar on Wednesday and adopted an updated version, but that has not changed MAC’s opposition — nor that of other opponents. MAC remains opposed to altering our public mental health system by giving financial control and decision-making powers to private insurance companies.

County elected officials, mental health advocates, labor and religious organizations and others continue to express great concern with the proposed policy change. More than half of Michigan’s counties have approved resolutions sharing great concern with the Senate bills, which could devastate services to thousands of individuals and their families who depend on the public behavioral health system for daily and lifelong supports.

In addition to the policy bills, Senate Bill 714, also introduced by the Sen. Shirkey, received an updated version that would increase spending from $350 million to just shy of $540 million. A $15 million fund shift from local funds to the state general fund for Medicaid mental health services is included, but it’s tied to whether SBs 597-598 become law.

Please continue to reach out to your senator directly with MAC’s advocacy tool and share information from MAC and our allies:

For more information on this issue, contact Meghann Keit-Corrion at keit@micounties.org.

 

House sends local pension grants bill to Senate

Legislation that would provide grants to local pension systems passed the Michigan House of Representatives on Tuesday with a 71-33 vote. House Bill 5054 would provide $1.15 billion in grants to local governmental units to bolster their pension programs.

Specifically, HB 5054 would provide $900 million in grants up to $100 million per local unit that currently have pension plans funded at 60 percent or less. Strings attached to this grant program would include:

  • Making all actuarially determined contributions
  • A freeze on any contractual benefit enhancements for 10 years
  • Maintaining discount rates and assumed rates of return
  • Adoption of the most recent mortality tables
  • Agreement to be subjected to corrective action plans for 5 years

In addition to the $900 million, the HB 5054 provides $250 million in a grant program for those local units funded above 60 percent. The maximum award in this category could not exceed 5 percent of available funds and would come with the following strings attached:

  • Pre-fund any retiree health care
  • Make all actuarially determined contributions
  • Maintain discount rates and assumed rates of return
  • Adoption of the most recent mortality tables
  • Grants applied first to pension systems so that they system is 100% funded

For those units already funded at 100 percent, grants from the $250 million account could be used for principal payments on any outstanding debt obligations or, if the unit has zero debt, for infrastructure investments. 

These funds would come from the state General Fund surplus and not from federally allocated COVID relief funds.

MAC is still reviewing the benefits to counties and the potential interactions with bargaining rights.

The bill now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

For more information, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

Property tax reimbursement bills clear Senate committee

Long-needed legislation to reimburse local governments from property tax losses due to an exemption for veterans moved to the Senate floor this week.

The Senate Finance Committee voted out this week Senate Bill 783 and Senate Bill 784, by Sen. Jon Bumstead (R-Newaygo), which would establish a refundable income tax credit program, payable to the local governments in the amount of the property tax exemption.  This approach would finally reimburse local governments from their property tax losses associated with the exemption without requiring any additional steps for eligible disabled veterans.

The bills have broad support from veterans’ organizations, MAC and other local government organizations. The Michigan Department of Treasury, however, currently opposes the bills.

The bills now move to the Senate floor.

For more information, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org

 

Early-bird pricing extended for conference, but time is running out to register!

MAC has extended early-bird pricing for county leaders to attend the 2022 Michigan Counties Legislative Conference to March 15. This means you can attend all conference events over the three-day run (March 21-23) for just $395.

Click here to start your registration process.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will keynote the conference, addressing a plenary session on Wednesday, March 23.

The 2022 event, co-hosted by the Michigan Association of Counties and the Michigan County Medical Care Facilities council, also will feature:

  • A plenary session address by Larry Johnson, president of the National Association of Counties
  • A MAC Legislative Update, led by Deena Bosworth, director of governmental affairs
  • Remarks from MAC President Phil Kuyers of Ottawa County and Executive Director Stephan Currie
  • Breakout sessions on current challenges for county leaders, including workforce development, the Open Meetings Act, trends in mobility on Michigan roads, American Rescue Plan spending and how to deal with stress in these stressful times
  • A Legislative Reception on the evening of Tuesday, March 22, during which MAC will present its County Advocate Awards for legislative service in 2021

The conference will be an in-person event, though MAC plans to livestream select breakout sessions on Facebook.

Your conference registration fee provides access to all conference events, snacks at the Radisson Hotel on Monday afternoon, the Legislative Reception with appetizers and beverages, two breakfasts at the Lansing Center (Tues-Wed), lunch on Tuesday at the Lansing Center and a boxed lunch on Wednesday you can take with you on your journey home.

Commissioners who attend the conference will receive credit in MAC’s County Commissioner Academy.

The Michigan County Medical Care Facilities Council (MCMCFC) has its own specialized workshops with members that offer Continuing Education credits.

 

Next Podcast 83 live session is Monday, March 7

MAC’s Podcast 83 team will again be gathering for a live broadcast, this time on Monday, March 7 at 4 p.m.

Among topics to be covered will be legislation to privatize Michigan’s locally controlled mental health system and the debate over income tax cuts in Lansing.

To join this session, which will include a Q&A segment, just use this Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82867692853.

A recording of last Monday’s live session is now available on MAC’s YouTube channel.

And, of course, you can find links and information on any prior Podcast 83 episode on its webpage.

 

State experts discuss opioid funds in MAC webinar

County leaders were briefed Wednesday by state officials on the latest information regarding money from the National Opioid Settlement during a MAC-sponsored webinar.

Assistant Attorney General Matt Walker and Dr. Debra A. Pinals of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services presented during the webinar.

To see the slides from the webinar, click here.

MDHHS and the Attorney General’s Office also have advised MAC that they will be hosting an opioid settlement webinar series in April. More information will be provided once made available to MAC.

For more information on this issue, contact Meghann Keit-Corrion at keit@micounties.org.

 

Bill filed to extend key funding policy for medical care facilities

A bill introduced this week would ensure the maintenance of effort (MOE) rate to support county medical care facilities remains capped and predictable. House Bill 5875, by House Health Policy Committee Chair Bronna Kahle (R-Lenawee), provides an extension to the MOE freeze until 2025, or until the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) implements a new reimbursement model, whichever is sooner.

County MCFs are considered Class III providers serving as the state’s safety net for long-term care skilled nursing home beds. County facilities tend to have a larger Medicaid population than other providers and in order to support that higher caseload, a higher Medicaid rate is available. In 1980, the state established the MOE tax as a way to bring in more federal money to the Medicaid system. This reimbursement system is a mutually beneficial partnership between the state and counties with county medical care facilities by reducing the state’s share of paying out Medicaid dollars, while, at the same time, maintaining the amount of money the counties approve to support their facilities. 

MDHHS has been studying and contemplating a new reimbursement model and policies for long-term care facilities. Should a new approach be implemented prior to Dec. 31, 2025, MCFs would transition to the new system under the bill.

The current sunset on the MOE is in December of this year, so an extension is a priority for the Michigan County Medical Care Facilities Council. MCMCFC is greatly appreciative of Rep. Kahle’s support of this legislation and will encourage swift legislative action.

For more information on this issue, contact Meghann Keit-Corrion at keit@micounties.org.

 

House committee advances $1.15 billion for local pension grants

On Thursday in a joint committee meeting of the House Appropriations Committee and the House Tax Policy Committee, House Bill 5054 was voted out to the full House. This supplemental spending bill would provide $1.15 billion in grants to local governmental units to bolster their pension programs.

Specifically, HB 5054 would provide $900 million in grants up to $100 million per local unit that currently have pension plans funded at 60 percent or less. Strings attached to this grant program would include:

  • Making all actuarially determined contributions
  • A freeze on any contractual benefit enhancements for 10 years
  • Maintaining discount rates and assumed rates of return
  • Adoption of the most recent mortality tables
  • Agreement to be subjected to corrective action plans for 5 years

In addition to the $900 million, the HB 5054 provides $250 million in a grant program for those local units funded above 60 percent. The maximum award in this category could not exceed 5 percent of available funds and would come with the following strings attached:

  • Pre-fund any retiree health care
  • Make all actuarially determined contributions
  • Maintain discount rates and assumed rates of return
  • Adoption of the most recent mortality tables
  • Grants applied first to pension systems so that they system is 100% funded

FOR THOSE UNITS ALREADY FUNDED AT 100 percent, grants from the $250 million account could be used for principal payments on any outstanding debt obligations or, if the unit has zero debt, for infrastructure investments. 

These funds would come from the state General Fund surplus and not from federally allocated COVID relief funds.

MAC is still reviewing the benefits to counties and the potential interactions with bargaining rights.

The bill now moves to the House floor for consideration.

For more information, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

Veterans property tax exemption bill heard in Senate

MAC’s Deena Bosworth (right) joined with representatives of MML and MTA on Wednesday to support legislation on reimbursements for property tax exemptions.

After years of negotiations, Sen. Jon Bumstead (R-Newaygo) introduced Senate Bill 783 and  Senate Bill 784 with the support of veterans organizations and local government organizations. The bills would establish a refundable income tax credit program, payable to the local governments in the amount of the property tax exemptions now given to disabled veterans. This approach would finally reimburse local governments from their losses associated with the exemption without requiring any additional steps for eligible disabled veterans. MAC testified Wednesday in support of the legislation along with other local government groups and veterans organizations. The Michigan Department of Treasury currently opposes the bills, so work will continue on the legislation to make it workable for all entities affected. 

In related news, Rep. Beau LaFave (R- Dickinson) is currently running House Bill 4908, which creates a fund for veterans organizations and, if the fund exceeds $4 million, would reimburse local units for their losses associated with the property tax exemption. HB 4908 would derive its revenue from lottery pull-tabs. It is unclear at this time just how much revenue this would raise and how it would be distributed should it not cover the cost of the exemptions. 

MAC will continue to support Senate Bills 783-784 as they move through the Legislature.

For more information on this issue, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

Renew your opposition to mental health privatization

Legislation that would damage mental health services in Michigan will soon get a vote in the Senate, and we need county leaders to voice their opposition.

Senate Bills 597-98, by Senate Majority Leader Shirkey (R-Jackson) and Sen. John Bizon (R-Calhoun), would shift financial administration of Medicaid mental health services to private Medicaid health plans. These bills ultimately take away public accountability and local governance and turn control over to for-profit private insurance companies that do not have a good track record in treating patients with mental health needs.

MAC opposes any move to shift toward privatization of our local public mental health system.

Earlier this week, a poll was released showing that two-thirds supported mental health being led by local public entities. Responding to those findings, MAC Executive Director Stephan Currie said, “Our members have heard of concerns first-hand from their constituents and these results just confirm voters worry about letting private health plans take control of the services for our most vulnerable populations. It is clear that Michiganders and County Commissioners from across the state believe that keeping a local public mental health system is best.”

Please help MAC convince the Senate to set aside these bills.

Using our advocacy platform, MAC is again asking you to send an email of opposition to your senator today.

For more information on this issue, contact Meghann Keit-Corrion at keit@micounties.org.

 

Join Podcast 83 team on Feb. 28 for live update

MAC Executive Director Stephan Currie and the Podcast 83 team of Deena Bosworth and Meghann Keit will be live on Monday, Feb. 28 to discuss the flurry of legislative events in Lansing in recent days and take your questions.

The update will begin at a new time: 4 p.m. To join the session, just use this Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82867692853.

Among likely topics to be addressed are: legislation to provide $1.15 billion in local pension grants; bills to privatize the mental health system; the latest on reimbursing counties for property tax exemptions for disabled veterans; and preparations for the upcoming Michigan Counties Legislative Conference.

Viewers will be able to ask questions of the team as well.

If you can’t catch the episode live, a recording will be posted later next week to MAC’s YouTube channel.

And you always can find details about any Podcast 83 episode on the MAC website.

 

Bill to end cap on crime tip rewards clears House

Counties would have full freedom of action to set rewards they offer for information leading to an arrest and conviction under a bill passed unanimously by the Michigan House of Representatives this week.

House Bill 4173, by Rep. Kara Hope (D-Ingham), would remove a $2,000 cap on a reward a county board can offer for the arrest and conviction of a person who has committed a crime or escaped from prison or jail in that county. Counties would decide their reward amounts, and awards would be paid out of the general fund of the county.

MAC supports this bill as a way to provide local control over county general funds and remove outdated statutory limitations. The bill now moves to the Senate but has not yet been assigned to a committee.

For more information on this issue, contact Meghann Keit-Corrion at keit@micounties.org.

 

Mason County administrator picked for state workforce panel

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently announced appointments to the Nursing Home Workforce Stabilization Council created by Executive Order 2021-15. Their goal will be to identify review, develop and recommend policies, administrative actions, legislative changes, and other approaches to support high-quality nursing home care. 

Among the appointees is Jannice L. Lamm, administrator with Oakview Medical Care Facility in Mason County. She is appointed to represent county government nursing home employers.

The Council will also include the directors or their designees of the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, and the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, and the Michigan State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Salli Pung. 

The Council must submit a final report or consensus recommendations to the governor by or before Dec. 1, 2023. Appointees will serve until the council dissolves on Dec. 1, 2023.

 

CRC webinar will analyze governor’s budget proposal

“A relatively strong economy and the availability of new federal funding creates circumstances for an unusual process for the Fiscal Year 2023 budget – a growth budget,” reports the Citizens Research Council of Michigan in announcing a March 4 webinar, “Analysis of Governor Whitmer’s Proposed FY2023 Budget.”

Beginning at 11 a.m. on March 4, CRC’s Bob Schneider and Craig Thiel will “review the governor’s proposed budget to take stock of available revenues, highlight spending priorities, analyze recommendations for school funding and other major budget categories, describe the historic context of the proposed budget, assess the effects of proposed tax cuts, and analyze the proposed uses of COVID-relief, infrastructure, and state surplus dollars. Join us to have your questions answered and better understand the details of the proposed FY2023 budget.”

Click here to register. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

MAC is a long-time supporter of the Citizens Research Council and its work to provide facts and data on public policy in our state.

 

A new poll commissioned by the Community Mental Health Association of Michigan and conducted by third-party survey provider EPIC-MRA found 67% of Michigan voters prefer the public mental health system to be managed by public entities who specialize in mental health care vs. turning the system over to private, for-profit companies.

Last year, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Shirkey introduced Senate Bills 597 & 598 which would privatize all Medicaid mental health services by giving full financial control and oversight to for-profit insurance companies. The EPIC-MRA polling shows two out of three Michigan voters would NOT support that change.

The poll was conducted in January 2022 among active and likely November 2022 general election voters across Michigan with a margin error of +/-4%. It comes at a critical time as communities across Michigan and the U.S. face a growing need for mental health support in the wake of the coronavirus. Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer also prioritized mental health funding in her State of the State address this past January, proposing $361 million to open school-based clinics and fund mental health professionals inside schools and increase access to mental health screenings. Other key data points from the poll include:

  • Nearly 3 times as many Michiganders oppose the privatization of the state’s mental health services for Medicaid patients (the purpose of Senate Bills 587 & 598). 67% oppose while only 24% support that privatization.
  • 76% of voters are concerned that private, for-profit health plans, do not have a good track record in treating patients with mental health needs and fear they will make matters worse.
  • 73% of voters are concerned that high overhead costs of the private health insurance companies (double that of the public system) and the corporate profits that these companies take out of the taxpayer-funded Medicaid system will lead to less mental health services for those in need.
  • The data also found factors that make a public mental health care system more cost effective than a private system, including active management of comprehensive services, a person-centered planning approach and high medical loss ratios (low spending on administrative costs to allocate those dollars towards Medicaid beneficiaries).
  • Nearly 4 times as many Michiganders are less likely to support their legislator if he/she supports privatization of mental health services for Medicaid patients than those more likely to support that legislator: 40% less likely compared with only 11% more likely.
  • Twice as many Michiganders think that Governor Whitmer should veto legislation if it passes than those who think she should sign the bills: 54% favor veto with only 27% favoring signing

“Our members have heard of concerns firsthand from their constituents and these results just confirm voters worry about letting private health plans take control of the services for our most vulnerable populations,” said Stephan Currie, the Executive Director of the Michigan Association of Counties. “It is clear that Michiganders and County Commissioners from across the state believe that keeping a local public mental health system is best.”

For the past 50 years, the mental health system in Michigan has been run and operated by county-based government entities to serve Michiganders with complex mental health, emotional disturbance, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and substance use disorders. The study by the Center for Healthcare Innovation and Integration found that Michigan’s public mental health system has a long tradition of high performance. Each year more than 325,000 Michiganders receive their services and care from the Michigan public mental health care system. The legislation under consideration in the Michigan State Senate would eliminate the existing Michigan public mental health care system and shift $3.5 billion of these state and federal dollars spent annually on this to private for-profit insurance companies based in Missouri, California, Minnesota, Arizona and Indiana.

“When Michigan ultimately develops a better system of behavioral health care, it must be designed around the needs of the individuals and families being served,” said Sherri Boyd, Executive Director of The Arc—Michigan. “While today’s system needs work, the proposed legislation being discussed here reflects the needs of payers first, not people, which is the primary reason it is not being better received by the public. We believe better solutions are out there and look forward to working with our state’s policy leaders to help identify and implement them.”

In a separate report, The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) gave health insurance companies that provide mental health services for treatment of mild-to-moderate mental health cases 2.4 out of 5 stars. Supporters of the public mental health care system are concerned that health insurance companies will not be able to provide services for adults with severe mental health needs, according to this new poll. Additionally, other states (such as Iowa) who have selected private companies to manage mental health care have found they do not provide the same level of care or understand the unique needs.

“As survey findings underscore, Michiganders strongly oppose Senate Bills 597 & 598. Their concerns revolve around the weak track record that the private health insurance companies have with mental health services and the high overhead costs and profit taking of these companies – syphoning tax dollars out of the system designed to serve some of the most vulnerable Michiganders,” said Robert Sheehan, CEO of CMHA. “Michiganders see through the false portrayal of these bills as improving the lives of the Michiganders. They see the damage that these bills will do to the state’s public Community Mental Health system and, as a result, to the health and quality of life of the 325,000 Michiganders who have long relied on this system for high quality mental health services and supports.”

More than 100 Michigan-based groups oppose the privatization of mental health care, including the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association, the Michigan Association of Counties, over 30 boards of county commissioners, over 50 mental health provider organizations, judicial and school-based organizations, the Michigan Catholic Conference, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and organized labor groups.

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