Street Talk

Street Talk: LRE heads to court

Make it count.

August 16, 2019
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Lakeshore Regional Entity has requested a hearing with an administrative law judge to void the cancellation of the contract between MDHHS and the LRE and to proceed with contracting for next year.

LRE is the publicly managed prepaid inpatient health plan that manages more than $250 million in Medicaid and other funding for Muskegon, Allegan, Kent, Lake, Mason, Oceana, and Ottawa counties.

The MDHHS is moving to cancel its contract with LRE, which defines LRE as a PIHP, or prepaid in-patient health plan, most notably citing ongoing financial issues.

A pre-trial phone conference was scheduled for the case Sept. 3.

LRE said the financial difficulties are not limited to the LRE, as “chronic underfunding” of the state’s mental health system has left nine of the 10 PIHPs in Michigan projecting funding deficits for the 2019 fiscal year.

“This is a problem of the state’s making, and cancellation of the LRE contract does not recognize the state’s responsibility to adequately fund the Medicaid program,” said LRE CEO Greg Hofman. “Our regional plan combined with anticipated increases in state funding for FY2020 will place our region in a very strong position moving forward.”

Between 2015 and 2018, LRE has received a 1.26% increase in funding as compared to a statewide average of 6.9% over the same period. The state has recognized these funding shortfalls and is increasing funding for 2020, LRE said.

LRE said it has made an effort to improve its services to West Michigan residents, including partnering in February with privately managed care organization Beacon Health Options to assist in management of the funds.

Over the past three years, the region has continued to increase the number of individuals served. Through the collaboration with Beacon, the region is experiencing a reduction in the length of stay for higher-cost services, such as inpatient and crisis-residential care.

“The state’s plan would remove local, public oversight in West Michigan’s public mental health system,” Hofman said. “This has been a cornerstone of our state’s mental health system and is protected by law.”

Park place

The Grand Rapids City Commission determined it’s in the best interests of the city to place the decision of a new parks millage before the voters for this coming general election.

The city commission last week voted 6-0, with Commissioner Senita Lenear absent, to place a city charter amendment for a parks millage proposal on the Nov. 5 ballot. The proposed amendment, if approved by voters, would permanently create a 1.25 dedicated millage for city-owned parks, pools and playgrounds starting Jan. 1, 2021.

According to city documents, the median home price in Grand Rapids is $110,000, which equates to a taxable value of $55,000. At the current rate of 0.9475 mills, the parks millage is $52.11 annually. At the proposed rate of 1.25 mills, the parks millage would grow to $68.75 annually or $16.64 more per year for a family with a median home price.

The proposed millage would raise an estimated $5 million in the levy’s first year. A portion of the revenues received also would be distributed to the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, Downtown Development Authority, SmartZone Local Development Finance Authority, Monroe North TIFA, Southtown Corridor Improvement Authority, Michigan Street CIA, Westside CIA, North Quarter CIA, South Division/Grandville Avenue CIA and Uptown CIA.

In 2013, the voters approved a charter amendment to create a dedicated parks millage, set at 0.98 mills to be collected for seven years. With Headlee rollbacks from the 0.98-mill rate adopted in 2013, the parks millage rate for tax year 2019 was 0.9475 mills.

The current millage for parks, pools and playgrounds will expire on Dec. 31, 2020, and renewal of that levy is necessary to continue the proper operation of the parks department, according to city staff.

Opioid void

A new public-private collaboration is seeking proposals for protecting pregnant women and their infants struggling with opioid use disorder.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan are collaborating on a new initiative called Addressing Perinatal Opioid Use Disorder.

A total of $200,000 will be awarded to begin new projects or enhance or expand existing projects to prevent and treat opioid use disorder among women and their children during prenatal, pregnancy and postpartum periods.

Women with opioid use disorder who are pregnant or likely to become pregnant face potentially adverse outcomes for themselves and their infants, including preterm labor, stillbirth, neonatal abstinence syndrome and maternal mortality, the partners said.

According to MDHHS’ Division for Vital Records, between 2010 and 2017, the rate of infants discharged from hospitals for drug withdrawals has increased by more than 50%.

“The impact of opioid use disorder on pregnant women and their families is devastating, and we strive to make sure resources are available for treatment options,” said Lynda Rossi, executive vice president at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and president of the BCBSM Foundation.

“Better access to care is absolutely critical. The intent of this initiative is to improve options for pregnant women suffering from addiction and find innovative treatment solutions that can be used by others in similar circumstances.”

The grants are targeted toward nonprofits participating in one of the 10 Regional Perinatal Quality Collaboratives in Michigan to establish effective and evidence-based projects that will be sustained after the grant period ends. The maximum grant awarded to any organization will be $75,000.

“This grant aims to enhance and improve treatment methods for this population, with a goal of sharing results and best practices on a larger scale,” said Audrey Harvey, executive director and CEO of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation. “We are looking for ways to expand treatment options to everywhere this disease can reach.”

More information can be found online at bit.ly/BlueCrossOpioid.

Proposals and application materials are due Aug. 31, 2019. Applications can be submitted as a single PDF to innovations@bcbsm.com.

By the numbers

The U.S. Census Bureau soon will begin its first major field effort in Grand Rapids in advance of the 2020 census. Census officials recently announced that address canvassing would begin later this month.

During address canvassing, field staff — known as listers — visit specific geographic areas in Grand Rapids where in-office efforts can’t provide a complete and accurate address list. Listers identify every place where people may live or stay, comparing what they see to the existing census address list and verifying, correcting or adding address and location information.

The city, in partnership with the Grand Rapids Complete Count Committee, is working to ensure historically hard-to-reach residents are included in the census. This includes residents of color and individuals who do not speak English as a first language.

“It’s important we welcome the census listers into our neighborhoods,” said Lou Canfield, the city’s Development Center manager and Complete Count Committee liaison. “Many of them are local residents. They are part of our community and they have a vested interest in our success.”

The results of the 2020 census will help determine federal funding that flows into the community for vital services such as health care, education and transportation, as well as political representation.

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