By Jessica Swartz*
February 9, 2009
2008 Legislative Session
The two most visible recent changes in the Michigan healthcare legislative landscape were the voters' approval of Proposals 1 and 2 during the November 2008 election. Eighty-seven percent of Michigan voters approved Proposal 1, which removed state penalties for registered patients to buy, grow, and use small amounts of marijuana for medical purposes.1 To be protected from the general state penalties for marijuana possession and use, individuals must have been diagnosed by a physician as having a statutorily defined "debilitating medical condition," and apply for and be issued a registry identification card.2 Once registered, participants may legally possess up to two and a half ounces of usable marijuana. The law became effective December 4, 2008, but the Department of Community Health is not required to promulgate regulations until April 4, 2009.3 Individuals may not register for the program before that date.
By a narrow margin, Michigan voters also passed Proposal 2 which approved a constitutional amendment to allow stem cell research.4 The language of the amendment mandates that stem cells cannot be taken from human embryos more than fourteen days after cell division begins, not including any time during which an embryo is frozen.5 Further, embryos must be "in excess of the clinical need of the person seeking fertility treatment" or be unsuitable for implantation and, but for the research purposes, would have otherwise been discarded.6 Proposal 2 did not provide an effective date for the amendment. No other laws relating to healthcare access, affordability, or financing have been enacted within the last four months.
2009 Legislative Session
In the last week of January 2009, due to the ailing economy in Michigan, BCBS of Michigan (BCBSM) requested permission from the state to raise rates for customers who carry individual health coverage.7 The rate hikes could affect up to 400,000 individuals and, if allowed, would take effect June 1, 2009. According to a BCBSM news release, "The requested average rate increases are 56 percent for Individual plans, 42 percent for Group Conversion plans, and 31 percent for Medicare Supplemental plans."8 The rate increases would not affect plans that are currently purchased by employers.9
On February 4, 2009, a bill was introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives that would remove the current restriction on pharmacists from dispensing electronically submitted prescriptions written by a physician licensed in a state other than Michigan for controlled substances.10 The bill has been referred to the committee on Health Policy.
The 95th Michigan Legislature is currently considering bills which, if enacted, would require the following:11
- Limited coverage for chiropractic services if the services rendered do not fit within the current definition of "the practice of chiropractic" under Public Health Code § 16401 (MCL § 333.16401);
- Income tax deductions for fitness center memberships and exercise equipment;
- Expanded insurance coverage for any prescribed drug or device approved by the FDA for use as a contraceptive; and
- Expanded insurance coverage for audiological screening, diagnosis, and treatment, including the cost of hearing aids for individuals who are certified as deaf or severely hearing impaired by a licensed physician or audiologist.
*We would like to thank Jessica Swartz, Esquire (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington, DC), for writing this email alert.
1 Proposal 08-01 § 3(a); see also www.mlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2008/11/michigan_voters_%20approve_%20medica.html.
2 Id. at § 4(a).
3 Id. at § 5(a), (b).
4 Available at www.michigan.gov/documents/Statewide_Bal_Prop_Status_145801_7.pdf; see also www.mlive.com/elections/index.ssf/2008/11/michigan_voters_approve_stem_c.html.
5 Proposal 08-2, Art. 1 § 2(a).
6 Id. at § (2)(b).
7 Patricia Anstett, Blue Cross Asks Michigan to hike rates; 400,000 to be affected, DETROIT FREE PRESS, January 31, 2009, available at www.freep.com.
8 Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Facing huge financial losses on individual policies, BCBSM requests rate increases on health plans purchased by individuals, January 30, 2009, available at www.bcbsm.com; see also The Associated Press, Blue Cross Requests Rate Increases in Michigan, January 30, 2009, available at www.mlive.com.
10 HB 4161 available at www.legislature.mi.gov.
11 See www.legislature.mi.gov for full text of the bills, current status, and analysis.