Governor Gretchen Whitmer delivered her third State of the State address on Wednesday night in a first-of-its-kind virtual presentation. In a comparatively short 26-minute speech, she outlined various policy proposals and health initiatives that will impact Michigan’s patients, providers, and public health. Below are some of the highlights:
COVID Recovery Plan:
Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 dominated Governor Whitmer’s address and dealing with the ongoing effects of a global pandemic will remain the top priority for Michigan’s legislature in the coming months. To that end, Governor Whitmer called on the Michigan legislature to help her pass the Michigan COVID Recovery Plan. The plan includes a strong focus on vaccine distribution, using the recently appropriated $90 million in federal funding through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act to ramp up vaccine distribution. The additional funding will help Michigan ramp distribution efforts in hopes of approaching the goal 50,000 shots in arms per day, while also providing financial support to local health departments for vaccine administration costs, including staff augmentation, as well as provide equipment and supplies. Michigan will also receive $575 million to expand COVID testing, tracing, and lab capacity in Michigan.
MSMS issued a statement in support of the Governor’s 50,000-shot goal following the speech and again expressed the need for physicians to play a key role in vaccinating Michigan residents.
Prescription Drug Affordability:
Prescription drug prices have been an ongoing problem for Michigan’s residents. During last year’s state of the state address, the Governor announced that a new prescription drug task force would be studying the issue and working to develop policy solutions to lower prescription drug costs and create more transparency in how drugs are priced. In this year’s address, Governor Whitmer made a point to revisit the task force and review the recommendations they have developed over the past year which include:
- Require transparency reports across the supply chain.
- License Pharmacy Benefit Managers just like we do for other professionals who make decisions about who gets health care and how much it costs.
- Penalize price increases when there is no new clinical evidence to support it.
- Enact policies to better control prices so people can get the medication they need when they need it.
- Allow pharmacists to discuss more affordable options with consumers like generics.
Governor Whitmer then called on the legislature to act on the recommendations and pass bipartisan legislation to lower prescription drug costs for Michigan families.
Surprise Medical Billing:
The Governor also used her remarks to mention the recent passage of legislation to end the practice of out of network medical billing. As MSMS members know, there was a lively debate about the appropriate path to protecting patients from surprise medical bills from out-of-network health care providers in 2020. MSMS was steadfast in our messaging to protect patients from surprise bills in these situations, to keep patients out of the middle of payment disputes, and to provide a fair and equitable playing field for physicians. Unfortunately, Michigan lawmakers agreed to an extreme approach to this otherwise complex issue and the bill package was signed into law by Governor Whitmer in October of 2020.
Despite the current price-fixing approach, MSMS continues to strongly advocate for a comprehensive approach to surprise out-of-network billing that holds insurance companies accountable for the products they sell to patients, and allows insurance companies and providers to negotiate in good faith with an independent dispute resolution (IDR) process as a backstop.
MI Clean Water:
The Governor called on the Legislature to pass the MI Clean Water plan, a $500 million comprehensive water investment in Michigan's water infrastructure that she announced last year. MI Clean Water will direct dollars to communities for safe, clean water to residents and expanding green infrastructure, and it supports over 7,500 Michigan jobs. Importantly, The MI Clean Water plan uses existing resources to take steps toward cleaner water for all by investing federal dollars, state bonding authority, and existing state revenues into a comprehensive water infrastructure package.
Small Business Assistance:
Lastly, the Governor announced the Michigan Back to Work plan, which includes several initiatives to support Michigan’s businesses and workers. The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on small businesses, including physician medical practices. Financially solvent medical practices are vital to the medical ecosystem, and MSMS will continue advocating for financial assistance for practices experiencing hardships related to increased costs, suspended and delayed care, reduced capacity, staffing, training, regulatory compliance, and other operational costs.
As always, a Governor’s State of the State address is a list of her priorities. Lansing has not been marked by much cooperation of late, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic has raged on. The Legislature also has its priorities, and how many of the Governor proposals become reality will yet to be seen.
For more information on the Governor's State of the State address, see the following links:
Michigan State Medical Society on Governor's COVID-19 Vaccine Goal
Governor Whitmer's Full State of the State Address (video)