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VOTING IS HAPPENING NOW!
With the 2020 election approximately one month away, it’s hard to believe that voting is already underway! In 2018, Michigan voters decided to expand voter access by approving no-reason absentee voting (ballot proposal 18-3), along with other measures like same-day registration, automatic audits of election results, and ensuring all military service members and overseas voters can obtain ballots. This year, a record number of voters have chosen to take advantage of the option to vote from home. Absentee ballots are currently being mailed out to those who have requested one. If you have not yet received yours, you can check your ballot status here.
Absentee ballots can be returned either via mail, physically dropped at your clerk’s office, or dropped into one of the many secure ballot drop box locations throughout our district. Due to delays we’ve seen with the mail, we recommend taking advantage of the ballot drop box locations or returning your ballot to your clerk’s office, if you can. If you plan to return it by mail, we recommend doing so as soon as possible ¾ ideally no later than October 20th ¾ to ensure it arrives to your clerk on time. Be aware! Filling out your ballot incorrectly may result in it being rejected and discarded.
Senate Bill 758: Includes Michigan in an interstate licensure compact for psychologists. This would allow telehealth and temporary in-person, face-to-face practice of psychology across jurisdictional boundaries. I voted yes on this bill, and it passed 38-0. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Health Policy.
Senate Bill 77: Allows for nursing homes to use electronic devices, such as cameras, to monitor residents, given that the resident has agreed to it. Over the past few years, we’ve seen numerous reports of horrific abuse of nursing home residents. Particularly during this pandemic as visits from family members are limited, this would allow seniors and family members peace-of-mind to be able to monitor their loved one ¾ just as many of us have security cameras installed at our homes. I voted yes on this bill, and it passed the Senate 37-0. It has been referred to the House Committee on Health Policy.
Senate Bill 1006: Ends the lifetime ban placed on those with two or more felony drug convictions from receiving SNAP benefits. Fundamentally, those who have served their time and learned from past mistakes should not be penalized for life, and this bill is part of the ongoing bipartisan effort to reform our criminal justice system to provide more paths for more people to return to normalcy. Passing this bill is an important step forward to rooting out systemic injustice in our legal system. Policies such as these disproportionately harm people of color, and lead to a greater cycle of poverty and continued crime in communities with fewer resources. I voted yes on this bill, it passed with a vote count of 32-6. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Families, Children, and Seniors.
Senate Bill 293: Amends the Occupational Code to require the Director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) to include in an annual report to the Legislature the number of license applications denied by LARA because of an applicant’s lack of good moral character. This bill passed the Senate with a vote of 38-0, I voted yes. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.
Senate Bill 813: Requires the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to investigate any situation in which someone dies by suicide or unknown causes within 48 hours of being discharged from a psychiatric treatment facility. This data will illustrate a bigger picture about where and how many of these deaths occur, allowing the Legislature to better understand the magnitude of this issue, and inform any legislative reforms that need to be made to Michigan’s mental health laws. The bill passed the Senate 38-0, I voted yes. The bill is now in the House Committee on Health Policy.
House Bill 4288: Creates a new act called the Broadband Expansion Act of Michigan. The bill would set up a grant program administered by the Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB). DTMB would award grants to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to provide broadband service of at least 25 mbps download/3mbps upload speed specific unserved geographic areas.
On the floor, I offered an amendment which would have removed language prohibiting local municipalities or educational institutions from participating in this grant program. As written, the bill currently only allows private telecom companies from receiving grant dollars. However, in many areas of the state that are unserved, local municipalities and schools have stepped up to build out their own broadband systems to serve residents ¾ often with a nonprofit-driven motive that has led private providers to stay out of such rural areas in the first place.
While my amendment failed, I was encouraged by positive conversations with legislators on both sides of the aisle and look forward to continuing this work in the future as we look to expand critical internet access for all Michiganders.
I voted yes on this bill both in committee and the Senate floor. The bill passed 36-1 and is on its way to the Governor for her signature.
SURPRISE BILLING LEGISLATION
This week, the Senate passed House Bill 4460 and House Bills 4990 and 4991. These bills tackle the issue of surprise billing. Surprise medical billing, also known as surprise gaps in insurance, can be a result of a few different scenarios. One scenario includes a patient receiving care from an in-network hospital but from an independent provider not covered by their insurance plan. Due to this gap in coverage between the hospital and provider, the patient is often stuck, unknowingly, paying the remaining leftover payment from an out-of-network provider. Patients can even be sent a surprise medical bill if they do not meet the out-of-pocket maximum for their high-deductible health insurance plan.
It is because of these systematic gaps and flaws with the process that patients are unfairly stuck footing the bill. To protect consumers, it is vital that these insurance programs undergo a deep systematic reform. While these problems remain, it is essential that we remove patients from this flawed equation.
These bills aim to address expensive surprise medical bills while also clarifying that the notice must be given before a patient is being admitted to a health facility or being prepped for a medical procedure. Accessible health care is essential, along with making sure that patients know the full financial burden they are signing up for. I voted yes on these bills both in committee and on the Senate floor. These bills have been returned to the Michigan House of Representatives for their final approval.
Five months ago, Beaumont Hospital System announced the consideration of a merger with the out-of-state Advocate Aurora Health.
Over the past few months, I’ve heard concerns directly from Beaumont doctors, staff, and members of our community concerned about what a merger could mean to the quality and cost of care, especially since Beaumont would only hold 5 seats out of a 15-member board within the merger. Beaumont is a nationally-ranked hospital system that employs and cares for so many of our residents, so I’ve been critical and have raised a number of concerns on multiple calls I’ve been on with Beaumont CEO John Fox and leadership.
This past week, I joined Congressman Andy Levin and state Rep Jim Ellison in a statement expressing our concerns, which was published in Crain’s and elsewhere.
On Friday, October 2nd, Beaumont Hospital announced it has ended merger discussions with Advocate Aurora.
In recent days, I’ve had conversations with doctors and Beaumont staff who have said that dialogue has significantly improved with hospital leadership, and I’m encouraged by that progress. I commend the Beaumont board for ending merger discussions to focus all their time and efforts at home and look forward to supporting them as we move forward as a community.
In response to the news, Congressman Levin, Representative Ellison, and myself released an updated statement.
>> Read more: Beaumont ends merger talks with Advocate Aurora Health(Detroit Free Press)
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