The question of how to improve Michigan's $2.4 billion mental health care system has been on the front burner for the better part of a year.
The latest twist came when Michigan's 11 Medicaid health plans called on state policy makers to give them a greater say in controlling the system. But it was concern over this very action, of moving control of mental health services out of the public's hands and turning it over to for-profit insurance companies, that sparked the year-long dialogue in the first place.
The move blindsided those who were working on a proposal they thought everyone had agreed upon, including the health plans. Among them is Kevin Fischer, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Michigan.
He joined Stateside today.
Over the summer, Fischer and the Section 298 Workgroup held town hall meetings to hear from users of Michigan’s mental health care system.
“Overwhelmingly, they told us, ‘We want it to remain a public service and we want the system built from the ground up,’” Fischer said.
In January, the Section 298 Workgroup moved forward to draft its recommendation, but the health plans submitted their own recommendations directly to the state legislation without telling the Workgroup. The health plans recommended privatizing the system, while the Workgroup recommended keeping the system public.
Fischer said he was disappointed by the move, which didn’t respect the cooperative process of the workgroup or give details on how health plans would improve the system if the they were given control.
“The ‘pay me now and deliver later’ system is not acceptable, because we can’t afford the risk,” he said.
For the full interview, listen above.
Minding Michigan is Stateside’s ongoing series that examines mental health issues in our state.