As Michigan moves out of the pandemic, the Mackinac Center’s Healthcare Policy Initiative is working to improve access to health care professionals and make state-regulated services more transparent.
We want the state to eliminate its certificate- of-need, or CON laws, which require health care facilities and professionals to get official permission before they start or expand their services. CON laws make health care scarcer and more expensive and it’s unlikely that the state will eliminate those laws soon. We are, however, working to bring more accountability to the commission that enforces them. The Michigan House has passed a series of transparency bills we advocate, and they are in the Senate now. The bills would increase public access to the commission’s meetings and commit the Legislature to oversee it through annual reviews.
Another state program that needs more oversight is Medicaid. During the pandemic, the state suspended its regular reviews of the program, which it had used to verify if people enrolled in it were eligible for benefits. Partly as a result, enrollment soared by 25%, going from 1.76 million residents in February 2020 to 2.19 million in February 2022, according to the state health department.
We’ve called on the Legislature to ensure the state resumes these reviews once federal officials drop their ban on them. Making sure that only eligible people are enrolled will improve the fiscal sustainability of the program for Michigan’s most vulnerable individuals: the aged, elderly and disabled. The federal government has given the state extra funds during the declared COVID emergency, and those funds will soon stop flowing. This increases the importance of conducting the reviews. The Michigan House has started to consider legislation to enhance procedures to review the list of eligible people, and we support this bill.
Finally, the Healthcare Policy Initiative has called on lawmakers to recognize the licenses that health professionals hold in good standing from other states. The state licensing department took this step during the pandemic, but it expired on Jan. 11. The governor recently signed into law a bill to allow this practice during an epidemic if the director of the state health department determines it is necessary. That’s a good first step.
Thousands of licensed health professionals from other states worked here during the pandemic. The education, training, scope-of-practice, and licensing requirements for health professionals across the country are largely standardized, and state lawmakers should recognize licenses from other states, not just during epidemics.