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House Republicans pitch $1.2 billion health care plan

The House Appropriations Committee heard testimony on a bill aiming to spend $1.2 billion to ease pressure on Michigan’s hospital systems again stressed by COVID-19.

House Bill 5523 would be funded entirely by federal COVID-19 relief dollars allocated to the state.

Committee Chair and state Rep. Thomas Albert, R- Lowell, said the plan would ease worker shortages in the health care system and keep schools open for in-person learning.

“This plan addresses the main challenges facing our state right now – increasing the capacity to provide early treatments to COVID patients, a critical shortage of health care workers, and keeping our kids healthy and in school,” Albert said in a statement. “We are providing immediate help where it’s needed most and will do the most good.”

Plan highlights include:

Early COVID-19 treatment

  • $134 million to buy and ramp up distribution of monoclonal antibodies and other new treatments that lessen the severity of COVID-19 cases and can expedite patients recovery. Studies suggest the drugs can reduce the risk of hospitalization or death for COVID-positive patients by up to 85%; priority must be given to high-risk individuals, and treatments must be offered free of charge
  • $90 million to boost vaccination programs

Strengthening stressed hospitals

  • $300 million for health care employee recruitment and retention
  • $24 million for nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Healthy schools and students

  • $300 million for rapid testing and screening in schools
  • $367 million to continue testing in Michigan communities

The bill notes that $90 million of federal funds must be spent on vaccine distribution instead of marketing, education or outreach.

“The loss of learning during COVID shutdowns will be one of the longest-lasting consequences of the pandemic,” Albert said. “Kids have fallen behind and it’s putting their future opportunities at risk. This plan will help students stay healthy and in school so they can continue their efforts to catch up.”

House Bill 5523 remains in the Appropriations Committee for further consideration.

Brian Peters, CEO of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association, welcomed the plan.

“On behalf of Michigan hospitals and health systems, we commend the Michigan House Appropriations Committee for introducing House Bill 5523 that includes vital funding for healthcare workers who have spent the past 21 months responding to a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic,” Peters said in a statement. “A healthcare workforce shortage existed prior to the pandemic and the pandemic has only made it worse. Today’s funding appropriation is a crucial step towards recognizing existing healthcare workers and providing hospitals with resources to improve recruitment and retention.”

This article was originally posted on House Republicans pitch $1.2 billion health care plan

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