Articles Posted in Michigan Healthcare News

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Earlier this month, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) awarded Comprehensive Health Care Program contracts for Michigan’s Medicaid health plans. Health plans administered under Michigan Medicaid provide access to healthcare services to nearly 2 million Michigan residents. In this recent award of health plan contracts, nine health plans submitted proposals. The awarded Medicaid contracts are expected to go into effect in October 2024 and carry terms of five years, with three, one-year optional extensions.

The Medicaid health plan contracts were awarded based on Michigan’s 10 Prosperity Regions as follows:

  • Region 1 – Upper Peninsula Prosperity Alliance: Upper Peninsula Health Plan, LLC.
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Late last year, the Michigan State Medical Society (MSMS) published a letter to the Michigan Attorney General (AG) voicing concerns about the influence of private equity on the practice of medicine and what MSMS referred to as widespread violations on Michigan’s prohibition on the corporate practice of medicine (CPOM). MSMS asked the AG to promptly investigate its concerns.

CPOM refers to the practice of medicine by a corporate entity, rather than an individual practitioner. That is, a corporate entity employs physicians and maintains the control that comes with employment. Many states prohibit the corporate practice of medicine or otherwise regulate what types of entities may employ physicians. The rationale is often a desire that medical decision-making remain with the physician and should not be influenced by a non-physician employer or by profit-driven investors. These regulations are the reasons that physician “employment” is often organized into physician groups or profession corporations.

In Michigan, with a few specific exceptions, entities that provide medical services generally must be organized as professional corporations (PCs) or professional limited liability companies (PLLCs) and must be owned by licensed professionals. A common business model is for a PC or PLLC to contract with an outside management services organization (MSO), which is not physician-owned, but may have financial resources or management expertise that the licensed owners of the PC do not have.

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The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) recently announced that it will implement an Electronic Visit Verification (EVV) system to validate in-home visits for Medicaid recipients. MDHHS plans to begin the transition to the EVV system in early 2024.

Michigan’s transition to an EVV system was precipitated by the 21st Century Cures Act, which requires states to implement an EVV system for all Medicaid personal care services and home health services that require in-home visits by a provider.

MDHHS awarded a five-year contract to IT firm HHAeXchange to build out and manage an EVV system that MDHHS will provide free of charge. However, MDHHS will be using an “Open Vendor Model,” which allows providers and managed care organizations to use either the state-provided EVV system, or their own EEV system software that directly integrates with the state’s system. To comply with the Act, The EEV system will collect information about the services provided, including the type of service provided, the provider who provided the service, the name of the patient who received the service, the start and end times of the service provided, the date when the service was provided, and the location where the services were provided.

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Michigan’s reworked Corporate Practice of Medicine laws now allow for multidisciplinary practices amongst physicians (licensed MDs and DOs), podiatrists, and chiropractors. Prior to 2022, Michigan’s Corporate Practice of Medicine laws prohibited chiropractors from forming professional corporations with physicians and podiatrists. Now, chiropractors are generally permitted to form professional corporations with physicians and podiatrists without violating Michigan’s Corporate Practice of Medicine laws.

Corporate Practice of Medicine occurs when a corporate entity practices medicine, as opposed to an individual practitioner. In this arrangement, the corporate entity employs physicians, and the physician provides the medical services. Since corporate entities generally exercise some level of control over how their employees perform their roles and many states believe that medical decision making should solely be done by physicians and not be influenced by non-physician employers, many states prohibit or regulate the corporate practice of medicine. These prohibitions and regulations are one of the reasons that physicians form physician groups or professional corporations.

While each state has its own approach to regulating the corporate practice of medicine, there are three general approaches. First, some states do not regulate the corporate practice of medicine or otherwise restrict physicians’ ability to be employed by entities controlled by non-physicians. Second, some states fully prohibit the corporate practice of medicine. These states allow only physicians to form and be shareholders in professional corporations, associations, or professional limited liability companies (PLLCs), and do not permit non-physicians to employ physicians. Finally, other states fall somewhere in the middle. Several states allow non-physicians to own a portion of a professional corporation that practice medicine, but limit this to a minority (49%) interest or other non-controlling interest. Other exceptions exist as well. Some states impose less strict or even no restrictions on non-profit corporations’ practice of medicine. For example, Texas has a general prohibition on the corporate practice of medicine but has a specific exception for Non-profit corporations.

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For decades, both health professionals and patients alike have suffered from the consequences of prior authorization requirements. Important treatments and procedures are often put on pause for the sake of the finances or administrative inefficiencies of insurance companies. These treatment delays could even cause treatment abandonment after long periods of time. Michigan legislators sought to resolve this issue by approving a law that tightens the standards of authorization for insurance providers and accelerates the approval process, saving time, money, and even lives.

On March 23, 2022, the Michigan House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 247 by a vote of 103-2. The bill states that starting June 2023, health insurers must act on urgent prior authorization requests within 72 hours and non-urgent prior authorization requests within nine days, which will be narrowed to seven days by 2024. If the insurer fails to act within this nine- or seven-day period, the non-urgent prior authorization will be considered automatically granted. The decision on these prior authorization requirements must also now be based on peer-reviewed clinical review criteria.

In addition to these time and material restrictions, the law also requires insurers to implement an electronic process for prior authorization requests, making them more efficient. If any changes or additions arise on the existing requirements for health care providers, insurers must give notice.

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On October 22, 2020, the Michigan Legislature enacted Enrolled House Bills 4459 and 4460. These rules were enacted to create limitations on out-of-network provider payments, require certain disclosures to patients related to costs of services, and to generally protect patients from balance medical billing. Balance billing occurs when a healthcare provider bills a patient for services for the amount the patient’s insurance company does not pay. The typical example of balance or surprise medical billing occurs when a patient goes to the emergency room at a hospital in the patient’s insurance network. The patient may receive care from multiple physicians and not know which is participating with the patient’s insurance, because hospitals often employ out-of-network physicians, or those that have no relationship with a patient’s health insurance. After the patient’s insurance pays its allowed amount for in-network and out-of-network services, the patient is then billed for the remaining out-of-network balance.

House Bill 4459 limits how much an out-of-network provider can collect in certain situations by implementing fee restrictions. The amount an out-of-network provider can collect from the patient is limited in certain circumstances, including:

  • Where the service is provided to an emergency patient, is covered by the emergency patient’s health benefit plan, and is provided by a nonparticipating provider at either a participating health facility or nonparticipating health facility.
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The Michigan Department of Health of Human Services (MDHHS) recently announced various support programs to help Michigan residents sign up for and gain access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Methods to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine in Michigan have been difficult for individuals 65 and older; many county local health departments are not offering the vaccine and will not provide vaccine information over the phone. These resources may be useful to providers when consulting with elderly patients.

Since individual physician providers cannot yet distribute the vaccine, the only other option for older qualifying individuals is to make an appointment with a local hospital system or pharmacy that is currently distributing the vaccine. However, these hospitals require patients to have an active online chart account with the hospital. In addition, hospital vaccine appointments are given to online chart account holders at random, and patients must continue to monitor their emails for appointment notifications. Many pharmacies, such as Right Aid and Meijer, are following a similar format for those 65 and older, and require patients to schedule appointments online or through the pharmacy’s smartphone application. These processes have caused difficulty for elderly individuals seeking the vaccine, who may have more trouble navigating online portals, emails, and smartphone applications.

Due to the varying degrees of technological access and understanding of Michigan residents 65 and older, MDHHS is working with community partners to make the COVID-19 vaccine appointment process smoother. Qualifying residents can visit for the most current COVID-19 vaccine information or call the COVID-19 Hotline at 888-535-6136 for assistance. MDHHS has also partnered with 2-1-1, a free, confidential website service that helps connect Michigan residents with COVID-19 information and community organizations across Michigan with thousands of different programs. 2-1-1 utilizes a comprehensive database of health and human services in Michigan with more than 7,000 agencies providing over 36,000 services across the state. MDHHS first began its partnership with 2-1-1 in June of 2020 to help individuals in Michigan find and register for COVID-19 testing, over the phone or internet, and expanded its partnership on February 12, 2021 to include directing individuals to local vaccination clinics.

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On December 28, 2020, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced that skilled nursing home residents and staff members would begin to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine immediately. This effort is made possible by the state of Michigan’s participation in the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care (LTC) Program.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pharmacy Partnership for LTC Program is a partnership between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and CVS, Walgreens, and certain participating Managed Health Care Associates, Inc. (MHA) pharmacies, to offer COVID-19 vaccination for residents and employees of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Starting in November 2020, long term care facilities (LTCFs) could sign up for the program and choose a federal pharmacy partner. The CDC worked with local jurisdictions to match facilities with their selected pharmacy partner. Pharmacy partners then reached out to their assigned LTCF to coordinate the vaccine process. Through the program, LTCFs will receive the vaccine free of charge, and will be provided with end-to-end management of the vaccine process, including on-site administration of vaccinations, scheduling, and coordination of on-site clinic dates, ordering vaccines and necessary supplies, and the implementation of reporting requirements. The goal of the program is to reduce the burden on LTCFs and local health departments, while increasing vaccination to vulnerable, priority populations.

Skilled nursing home residents and staff are among the highest risk for severe illness and death due to COVID-19. In Michigan, over 5,000 LTC facilities, including 400 skilled nursing facilities, are enrolled in the vaccine program. There are approximately 91,000 skilled nursing residents and employees to be vaccinated, with the process estimated to require three weeks to completely vaccinate this population. Other facilities eligible for the Pharmacy Partnership for LTC Program, such as, assisted living facilities, personal care homes, residential care, adult family homes, adult foster homes, HUD supportive housing for the elderly and veterans’ homes, will soon receive vaccinations as well. Adult day care facilities, independent living facilities, facilities exclusively for children or adolescents, psychiatric rehabilitation or behavioral treatment facilities, and drug or alcohol rehabilitation centers are not eligible for the program.

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The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has released two new tools to help reduce COVID-19 infections, deaths, and identify exposure risks, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The MI COVID Alert App is a free, anonymous app that alerts users if they have had a recent COVID-19 exposure. In addition to the MI COVID Alert App, the MDHHS launched CV19 CheckUp, a free, anonymous, online service that allows an individual to evaluate his or her personal COVID-19 risks.

In a partnership with MDHHS and the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB), the MI COVID Alert App was released statewide on November 9, 2020. The app is free, voluntary to use, and alerts users to recent COVID-19 exposures. Users can anonymously submit a positive COVID-19 test result as well, informing others nearby that they may have been exposed to the virus. When a person tests positive for COVID-19, the individual will receive a randomly generated PIN number from the local health department or State of Michigan, which the user can then enter into the app. If a user receives an exposure notification, this alerts the individual that he or she may have been within 6 feet for a minimum of 15 minutes of another individual with a positive test result. Notably, no information that can be used to personally identify or track a user’s location is required or shared; no names are necessary to use the app, and Bluetooth technology is used instead of GPS, to prevent location tracking. One month since its launch, the app has received 461,192 downloads. MDHHS claims the app has potential to decrease infections and mortality, even with only a 15% population use rate.

In addition to the app, on December 15, 2020, MDHHS launched the CV19 CheckUp tool. This free tool, available to all individuals in Michigan, offers users a personalized risk analysis for COVID-19. After completing an online questionnaire that takes into account an individual’s life situation and personal behavior, users are provided with a COVID-19 risk assessment as well as recommendations and connections to support services, if necessary. Although this tool is available for all Michigan residents, it is specifically created for older individuals, those 60 and over, who represent 24% of confirmed COVID-19 cases and 89% of confirmed COVID-19 deaths in Michigan. Like the MI COVID Alert App, the CV19 CheckUp tool is anonymous, and no name, email address, or other personal identifier is necessary to use and receive a personal risk and recommendation analysis. Rather than placing the burden on the individual to browse various websites and other COVID-19 related resources, the CV19 CheckUp tool uses data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as artificial intelligence, to analyze each person’s data, providing them with a risk level, an easy-to-understand evaluation of that risk, and steps that can be taken to minimize that risk.

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On June 24, 2018, amendments to the Professional Service Corporation Provisions (Chapter 2A) of the Michigan Business Corporations Act (BCA) will be in effect. In 2013, the Professional Service Corporation Act was incorporated into the body of the BCA as Chapter 2A, but was drafted in a way that created conflicting language between multiple provisions. According to Justin Klimko from the Corporate Laws Committee (Business Law Section), the main goal of amending Chapter 2A this year is to clarify that entities may be shareholders in Professional Corporations (PCs) if all of their owners are properly licensed. The amendments also clarify when individuals must sever their relationships with a PC.

The inconsistent language in Chapter 2A of the BCA created confusion as to whether entities may or may not be shareholders of PCs. Various sections were amended to address the discrepancies.

Under the previous language, PCs were prohibited from issuing shares “to anyone other than an individual who is licensed…” This language was inconsistent with other sections of Chapter 2A because it seemed to exclude entities. Thus, the new amendments resolve this contradiction by clarifying that a PC may issue shares to “an entity that is directly or beneficially owned only by persons that are licensed persons in 1 or more of the professional services provided by the professional corporation.” Furthermore, the amendments added to the definition of “licensed person” to allow the entity itself to be a licensed person if the entity is licensed to practice a professional service.

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