Published in Economic Development
Whitmer signs surprise medical billing, employer liability bills into law COURTESY PHOTO

Whitmer signs surprise medical billing, employer liability bills into law

BY Thursday, October 22, 2020 01:30pm

LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed a series of bipartisan bills that include providing pandemic liability protections to employers and curtailing surprise medical billing in Michigan.

The liability bills shield businesses from lawsuits if someone contends they were exposed to COVID-19 as long as the employer complies with local, state and federal laws and regulations to prevent spread of the virus.

The legislative package also codifies an executive order prohibiting employees who test positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms from going to work until certain conditions are met. Employers could not retaliate, discipline or terminate an employee who complied with the return-to-work conditions. 

“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.”

Business advocates had pushed hard in Lansing for the liability legislation.

In a news release issued by the governor’s office, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce applauded Whitmer and lawmakers “for coming together to resolve a controversial issue.” 

“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,” said Wendy Block, vice president of business advocacy and member engagement for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. “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.”

Whitmer also signed into law bills involving surprise medical billing that had attracted national attention and support from health care groups.

That legislation requires care providers to inform patients in advance of a scheduled procedure that their health insurer may not cover all of their medical services and that they can request care from an in-network provider. The notice must inform the patient that a non-participating provider must provide them “a good-faith estimate of the cost of the health care services to be provided.”

In emergency situations, the out-of-network provider would have to accept payment that’s the median amount within the region that a health insurer pays an in-network provider, or accept 150 percent of what Medicare pays for a medical service, whichever is greater.

Patients would still have to pay customary copays or deductibles built into the health insurance coverage.

The legislation also allows care providers to request added payment for care in emergency cases and establish an appeals process within the Michigan Department of Finance and Insurance Services if denied.

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