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.