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by Scott McClallen


Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a packages of bipartisan bills into law Thursday. In part, the bills aim to protect Michigan workers from COVID-19 and surprise medical billing for any treatment, as well as protect businesses from COVID-19 related lawsuits.

“No Michigander should have to worry about going into work when they’re sick, especially during a global pandemic,” Whitmer said in a statement.

“These bipartisan bills ensure crucial protections for our workers and businesses who do their part to protect our families and frontline workers from the spread of COVID-19. I look forward to more collaboration with the legislature where we can find common ground.”

HB 6030 creates a new law that establishes minimum requirements for COVID-19 exposure tort claims against businesses and protects businesses that follow federal, state and local COVID-19 safety precautions from COVID-19 liability lawsuits.

The bill also protects people from civil claims who designed or distributed personal protective equipment in response to COVID-19.

HB 6031 amends the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act to remove COVID-19 liability from employers who adhere to all federal, state, and local COVID-19 statutes if an employee contracts COVID-19 at work.

HB 6032 prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee who stays home because of COVID-19 exposure or symptoms. The bill requires an employee exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms to stay home until various conditions are met.

HBs 4459–4460 and 4990–4991 protect consumers against surprise medical billing. If a consumer is stuck with a bill for receiving care at an in-network hospital but sees an out-of-network doctor, that person’s insurance company will pay the doctor according to a specified formula.

“Across our state, businesses, nonprofits, child care, academic facilities and the medical community have invested resources, time and energy in complying with public health requirements and operating in a safe manner,” Wendy Block, vice president of business advocacy and member engagement for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.

“This legislation is good news for entities that have made these investments, and that continue to follow COVID-19 laws and regulations, allowing them to proceed with confidence and certainty,” Block continued. “We applaud the governor and legislative leaders for coming together to resolve a controversial issue.”

The bills also provide for certain good-faith cost estimate disclosures in non-emergency situations, and limit an out-of-network provider’s ability to bill a patient directly for certain emergency costs.

Instead, the provider and the insurer will settle the disputed charge.

Other bills signed into law by the governor and related to the pandemic include:

HB 6159 codifies protections for medical providers and facilities. The bill will apply retroactively on or after March 29, 2020 and before July 14, 2020.

HB 6192 extends the validity of certain permits, licenses, and registrations issued by the Secretary of State until Dec. 11.

 SB 1094 requires the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) to evaluate nursing homes’ performance statewide during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill also orders DHHS and LARA to provide a statewide visitation policy for COVID-19 testing; bars nursing homes from caring for COVID-19 patients unless the building cares for those patients in “a designated area;” and establishes a process to approve care and recovery facilities before Nov. 15, 2020.

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Scott McClallen is a reporter for The Center Square.
Photo “Gretchen Whitmer” by Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy University of Michigan CC BY-ND 2.0.











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Kansas Hospital Officials Fear Nursing Shortage Amid Surge

Hospital and nursing officials fear that if COVID-19 cases continue unchecked there won't be enough nurses to staff new hospital beds in the near future in the Kansas City metro area.

“All the things we were worried about could be possible in March, April and May are actually happening right now, and that should be scary for all of us,” said David Wild, vice president of performance improvement at the University of Kansas Health System.

Kansas health officials on Monday added 4,425 cases to the state’s pandemic tally since Friday, bringing the total to 157,446. Data showed that Kansas averaged 2,198 new confirmed and probable coronavirus a day for the seven days ending Monday. That is below the record average of 2,766 cases.

The number of COVID-19 related deaths also rose by 31 to 1,560.

It is too soon to see how Thanksgiving gatherings have impacted coronavirus numbers, but medical providers expect to see another rise in hospitalizations in 10 to 14 days once people begin showing symptoms.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported on Monday 87 new hospitalizations, bringing the total of hospitalizations to 5,105 since the start of the pandemic. The state’s COVID-19 dashboard showed 227 coronavirus patients were in ICU units, with 39% of ICU capacity remaining in Kansas.

High community spread means more nurses are liable to contract the disease, forcing them into quarantine. Child care also is an issue, says Kelly Sommers, state director of the Kansas State Nurses Association.

The Kansas Hospital Association’s dashboard on Friday showed 14 of the metro area’s 33 hospitals, or about 42%, reporting they anticipated critical staff shortages in the following week, KCUR reported.

“The obvious answer is to get some temporary people, traveling nurses,” says Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at the University of Kansas Health System. “But they’re just not as available as they once were because everybody’s scrambling for the same folks.”

Health providers anticipate the need for more COVID-19 testing following the Thanksgiving holiday, as testing numbers have more than doubled since cases began rising again in the Kansas City area.

Hospitalization numbers were also back up Monday after stabilizing over the holiday weekend, said Dr. Dana Hawkinson, an infectious disease expert at the University of Kansas Health System. The hospital is now treating 102 active cases, of which 46 are in the intensive care unit and 30 are on ventilators, KCUR reported.

“It looks like social gatherings, not so much school, but those other places where people are getting together where they aren’t really necessarily wearing masks as they should be, distancing as they should be, is really a concern,” Hawkinson said.

Hawkinson recommended that anyone who traveled or celebrated in a group for the holiday should act as if they are infected by quarantining and getting tested.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Tags: Kansas, Associated Press

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