By Jessica Swartz, Susan Patton, and Cami Pendell*
July 21, 2009
Just prior to its departure for the Fourth of July holiday break, the Michigan House of Representatives passed House Bills 4183 and 4476 to mandate that healthcare insurers provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism. The bills were then transmitted to the state Senate, where they were referred to the Economic Development and Regulatory Reform Committee. An analysis of this legislation can be accessed on the Michigan Legislature's website.1
The passage of HBs 4183 and 4476 came about a week after an announcement that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan settled a class-action lawsuit pertaining to autism coverage. It was reported in Crain's Detroit Business, June 19, 2009, that a settlement for an estimated $1 million was reached in a case involving nearly 100 families that were denied autism coverage for their children. The settlement is subject to U.S. District Court approval.
A number of states have passed legislation requiring healthcare coverage for autism treatment. The precise number of mandates is in dispute because several states have specific laws pertaining to autism while other states require autism coverage through their mental healthcare laws. There has also been activity on the national front with the introduction of legislation in Congress that would establish a federal autism mandate.
Having returned from the holiday break, the Legislature will address Michigan's budget difficulties. The proposed House and Senate budgets for the Department of Community Health are nearly $400 million apart. Included in the differences is an 8% Medicaid provider cut in the Senate's version of the legislation. This is an additional 4% cut on top of the 4% cut that was contained in Governor Jennifer Granholm's (D) Executive Order 2009-22 (see February 2009 AHLA report). Also included in the Senate's version of the bill is boilerplate language establishing a competitive bid process to identify a vendor to administer the medical marijuana application and registration process (see November 2008 AHLA report). HB 4436 has been referred to a conference committee where legislators will continue to work to resolve their differences. Michigan's budget must be enacted by October 1, 2009, to avoid a government shutdown.
Shortly upon its return to session after the Fourth of July break, Speaker of the House Andy Dillon (D) announced his proposal to implement a single statewide, public sector healthcare program. Mr. Dillon's proposal would consolidate healthcare benefits for all public sector employees and retirees. According to the summary released by Mr. Dillon's office, the program would encompass "planning, delivery, and administration of healthcare benefits including negotiations and purchasing." The summary explained that the proposal would standardize health benefits offered to state employees, allow greater bargaining power in contracting with healthcare providers, and cut healthcare costs by $700 to $900 million each year. Governor Granholm has questioned and even criticized some of the details of Mr. Dillon's proposal.3 Her criticism included whether the timing was wise in light of the current uncertainty of proposed Federal legislation, about which Michigan legislators have expressed skepticism. Predictably, the main disagreements run between the parties as to what funding must be cut and how to provide funding for the major increases in healthcare spending.4
*We wish to thank Jessica Swartz, Esquire (Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington, DC), Susan Patton, Esquire (Butzel Long PC, Ann Arbor, MI), and Cami M. Pendell (BL Government Affairs LLC, Lansing, MI) for providing this alert.
1 See www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2009-2010/billanalysis/House/pdf/2009-HLA-4183-3.pdf.
2 See www.newideasformichigan.org; see also www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf/2009/07/teachers_question_plan_to_cons_1.html.
4 See Kyla King, "Health Care Bill Prompts Skepticism in West Michigan's Congressmen," Grand Rapids Press, July 17, 2009, at www.mlive.com.
For summaries of other state healthcare initiatives, please visit the Healthcare Reform Educational Task Force's website and click on Email Alerts in the left-hand navigation menu.
The Healthcare Reform Educational Task Force is a joint endeavor of the Healthcare Liability and Litigation; Hospitals and Health Systems; In-House Counsel; Payors, Plans, and Managed Care; Physician Organizations; Regulation, Accreditation, and Payment; and Teaching Hospitals and Academic Medical Centers Practice Groups.