Senate Incumbents Facing Big Changes With Map So Far

The Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission Track still has a ways to go to finish its draft map for the 38 Senate seats, but with 26 seats drawn or partially drawn so far, some features are coming into focus.

One is that the Apol criteria, named for Bernie Apol, who was instrumental in putting together the 1981 plan and emphasized that districts be compact, contiguous and break as few municipal and county lines as possible, are gone. This was as expected based on Proposal 2018-2, which demoted the importance of local boundaries below compliance with the U.S. Voting Rights Act, respecting communities of interest and assuring the map is fair to both major political parties.

Another aspect that has frustrated virtually everyone is the lack of availability of high-quality images of the maps drawn so far. That makes it hard to determine exactly how many county lines have been broken. A review of what is available shows at least 19 counties split between at least two districts. The current map has just six counties with portions of their territory attached to districts in other counties.

There also are new approaches to large cities, with Grand Rapids and Lansing split between two districts even though both have populations well below the ideal Senate district size.

Another trend is the significant changes incumbents eligible for reelection will face to their districts.

The ones staring at the biggest problems right now are those drawn into the same district.

So far, those are Sen. Jon Bumstead R-Newaygo) and Sen. Rick Outman (R-Six Lakes), who would be in a new 33rd District. Mr. Bumstead would lose most of Muskegon County and head east. Mr. Outman would lose the northern territory of his district, like Isabella County, and head west.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-Beverly Hills) and Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) would be in a new 14th District that stretches from Royal Oak northwest through Birmingham, Bloomfield Township, West Bloomfield and Commerce Township. Ms. McMorrow would lose most of her district to the new 16th, which would have Troy, Rochester Hills, Oakland Township and curiously some of Sterling Heights. Ms. Bayer would lose the northern parts of her district, like Pontiac, Auburn Hills and northern Oakland turf, to other seats.

If those boundaries hold, the new 16th will be much tougher hold than Ms. McMorrow’s current district, where heavily Democratic Royal Oak provides a big vote margin for her party. The new 14th would be a relatively easy hold for a Democrat compared to Ms. Bayer’s current seat.

Then there are the incumbents looking at wholesale changes to the territory they represent:

  • Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington) will lose most of his current seat, dropping counties like Wexford, Lake, Kalkaska, Crawford, Roscommon, Ogemaw and Osceola and Missaukee and picking up Oceana and most of Muskegon County.
  • Sen. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) will lose suburbs in southeast Kent County, as well as northern Grand Rapids, and pick up suburbs that border the southern part of the city.
  • Rep. Mark Huizenga(R-Walker), soon to be a member of the Senate, would lose large portions of Kent County and pick up northern Grand Rapids and part of Ottawa County in a district that would be far more competitive than the one he is now seeking.
  • Sen. Kim LaSata (R-Bainbridge Township) would see wholesale changes, losing half of Berrien County and all of Cass and St. Joseph counties. She instead would move northeast, picking up parts of Van Buren, Allegan and Kent counties.
  • Sen. Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton) also would see wholesale changes, losing part of Van Buren, all of Allegan and the portion of Kent County he now has. Instead, he would have parts of Berrien, Van Buren, Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Branch counties and all of Cass and St. Joseph.
  • Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte) would face major trouble, losing all of Clinton and Shiawassee counties and picking up significant parts of Ingham County, including most of Lansing. This would be a Democratic district.
  • Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) would lose almost her entire district in southwest Wayne County but keep her home base of Taylor and add Dearborn, Dearborn Heights and more.
  • Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) would lose the Downriver part of her district. How the Detroit portion would look is unknown at this point.
  • Sen. Jeremy Moss would lose Farmington/Farmington Hills and Madison Heights and pick up an equivalent population from northwest Detroit, taking turf now represented by Sen. Betty Alexander (D-Detroit) and Sen. Marshall Bullock (D-Detroit).
  • Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) would lose Novi, Wixom, Lyon Township and Commerce Township and pick up Pontiac and Auburn Hills.

There are some senators whose districts would be relatively stable: Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan), Sen. Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway), Sen. Lana Theis(R-Brighton), Sen. Roger Victory (R-Georgetown Township) and Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor).

Still other incumbents are awaiting word because their areas have not been drawn: Sen. Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo), Sen. John Bizon (R-Battle Creek), Sen. Kevin Daly (R-Lum), Sen. Michael McDonald (R-Macomb Township), Sen. Paul Wojno (D-Warren), Sen. Ruth Johnson (R-Groveland Township), Sen. Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia), Ms. Alexander, Mr. Bullock, Sen. Adam Hollier (D-Detroit), Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit) and Rep. Doug Wozniak (R-Shelby Township), who will soon be elected to the Senate.

One area on which those watching the process agree is that this map will change, possibly considerably.

The unallocated Kalamazoo-Battle Creek area has too much population for one district and too little for two, so adjustments will be needed to the surrounding districts, creating a ripple effect. There’s a pocket of Monroe County that is well below the size of a Senate district that needs to be allocated.

Further, the decision to draw the city of Detroit’s districts last has surprised many because the top priority under the Constitution is compliance with the U.S. Voting Rights Act, meaning there cannot be fewer majority-minority districts than in the previous map. Detroit’s Black population fell to 493,212 in 2020, meaning there are not enough people within the city to support two full majority-minority districts.

That forces the use of the suburbs to create others. Mr. Moss’ district, as drawn, would be a majority-minority district. How the commission gets to five could force redrawing the maps as they currently stand.

Then there is the partisan fairness criteria that could require further tinkering.

Auto Wreck Providers Claim Insurers Aren’t Paying Up

Lawmakers’ $25 million fund created before the summer break to provide brain injury clinics and home care providers financial relief from the 45% rate cut implemented in July as part of the auto insurance reform isn’t working, those providers say.
That’s because insurance companies are delaying and denying claims "across the board," even claims for patients that insurers used to pay promptly, according to Tom Judd, president of the Michigan Brain Injury Provider Council.

And providers can’t apply to the Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) for the financial relief offered through SB 0028 until the insurer has paid the reduced reimbursement.

Judd believes it "is a coordinated effort to dismantle the post acute continuum of care in Michigan."

"From our side, it is pretty clear what is going on here. They are waiting it out. They are not paying right now, they are waiting it out," he said. "They’ve made claims that it is because of premium reductions, but let’s be real here. It is about getting rid of this post acute care system that we have in Michigan that provides lifetime care.

"They can say people have benefits all day long, but it doesn’t matter if they have benefits if there is no one to provide services to fulfill those benefits. It is kind of like having a warranty on your car and then you have an accident or you need a tune up and there is no mechanic to fix your car."

Erin McDonough, executive director of the Insurance Alliance of Michigan (IAM), calls Judd’s comments "irresponsible" and "false allegations” intended to distract from the fact that long-term care providers are trying to evade and avoid accountability measures passed by lawmakers.

Auto insurance reforms passed in 2019 cut reimbursement rates for brain injury care providers, both clinics and in-home care givers. Under that reform, beginning in July providers were mandated to charge 200% of Medicare rates or, if no Medicare equivalent code was applicable, cut their rates to 55% of 2019 levels.

In June, a $25 million plan attributed to House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Farwell) was developed to give those providers financial assistance if they could demonstrate financial losses as a result of the reduced rates. The bill was quickly passed before the break and signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

But Judd notes that the rate cut was effective July 1 and the relief bill wasn’t signed until mid-month. The form had to be developed through DIFS and was not available until mid-August. And it is not a simple application, he said.

"Theoretically, people could have been submitting applications by now, but they are not getting paid. If they are not getting paid, they can’t even start to apply," Judd said.

Bob Mlynarek, co-owner of 1st Call Home Healthcare which provides in-home services across southern Michigan, said that under the new rates his business is "upside down" and "basically self-financing the care for our patients."

"We charged $28 per hour to take care of a basic traumatic brain injury patient for personal care, monitoring, supervision, assistance with meals, dressing, bathing and they want to pay us $15.40," Mlynarek explained. "Well, we are paying aides $16, $17 for that service. And then you add in 20% payroll taxes, we are up to $18 or $19 just for our costs of goods sold, right!? Then on top of that, we have our office overhead, rent, utilities and software and billing and recruiting and training and orientation and nurse oversight."

In the past, his business has charged $70 per hour for a nurse for a high acuity quadriplegic. Mlynarek would pay the nurse $35 to $40. The new rates would reimburse at $38, he said.

"By the time October rolls around, we are going to be pretty much bankrupt and we are going to be dropping our 45 patients. Really, the reason why they have an agency is because they don’t have family to take care of them," Mlynarek said. "We have been trying to tell our lawmakers that we will not survive. They all thought that we had such a large charge master that we are going to be able to sustain a 45% cut. At the end of the day, I have a 10% profit margin."

On top of the rate cut, Mlynarek said, about half of his reimbursements are not being paid promptly now, including claims for patients that were paid on time before July 1.

"We have notified all of our patients that if there is not a fix by Oct. 1, we are going to start discharging them after that," he said.

Often family members have to step up to give care to discharged patients, Judd explained. Others end up in nursing homes. Some have to be moved to a hospital until placement can be found.

Two companies have already closed up, according to Judd, Home Health Partners, which laid off 500 employees and discharged "a couple hundred patients," and Aspire Rehabilitation, which discharged 20 to 30 patients.

"Rather than throw stones inside glass houses, Mr. Judd should be holding his own members accountable for undermining and circumventing the no-fault system," McDonough said in a statement issued today. ". . . We have numerous reports of long-term care providers refusing to submit sufficient information for a carrier to pay a claim or submitting suspicious information. We have received reports of long-term care providers refusing to disclose their 2019 charge masters or average charges, billing at higher amounts than they did prior to reform, and performing multiple procedures that were only done once prior to reform."

Michigan’s auto insurance industry is committed to ensuring the auto no-fault system works for everyone, McDonough said. The industry has spent the last two years working to implement the reforms passed by the Legislature and the Governor, she contended.

Elizabeth Piner, a case manager and owner of Ambrose Care Management in Okemos, said she meets regularly with case managers from 25 companies and all are experiencing delays and denials, even for claims that used to be paid promptly in the past.

A variety of reasons are given, she said, but one of the most frequent is that the provider has failed to submit its 2019 charge master.

Piner said she doesn’t know why any provider would fail to turn in a charge master and believes most of them actually do.

"Every invoice I send, absolutely every one of them has my charge master included," Piner said. ". . . We really had only one fee back in 2019. It wasn’t hard."

But every time she follows up on a claim, Piner said, the insurer asks for the charge master.

Judd hopes that when the Legislature returns to session "it will see the error in its way, if you will."

"This is a legislative-made problem and the only way it can be fixed is through the Legislature," Judd said.

DIFS has very little ability to control the issue or be an advocate for consumers, he said. ". . . We have other options if they want to sit down at the table, but people’s lives and livelihoods are at stake right now."

Republicans Fuming At Biden Vaccine Mandate; Dems Are Quiet

President Joe Biden’s announcement that his administration is ordering employers of 100 or more to require their workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested weekly, estimated to affect about 80 million Americans, was ripped by Republicans calling it an intrusion on medical freedom and by several employer organizations who said the government should not interfere with how they work with their employees.

Some top Michigan Democrats, however, had little to say about the dramatic proposal, which Mr. Biden said is necessary because the refusal of 30 to 40 percent of the country to be vaccinated is allowing the virus to continue ravaging the nation instead of being brought under control.

Medical groups did praise the move and again urged the public to be vaccinated against a virus that has killed 656,000 nationally and 20,506 in Michigan.

Mr. Biden, in a speech said, the unvaccinated minority "can cause a lot of damage, and they are," The Associated Press reported. Without the formal order made public, it was difficult to discern its full impact, but the Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators, in a memo, said it appeared it would apply to school employees in Michigan in districts with more than 100 employees

Bobby Leddy, press secretary to Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who has resisted the idea of mandating vaccinations, said the administration is reviewing Mr. Biden’s plan.

"Our top priority remains slowing the spread of COVID-19 so that businesses can keep their doors open, schools can keep students in the classroom and the state can continue our strong economic jumpstart," he said. "The science shows that vaccines offer unparalleled protection against this deadly disease, including the Delta variant. Governor Whitmer shares the president’s goal to tackle this virus, and our office is reviewing the president’s plan to understand what this means for Michiganders. In the meantime, we are encouraging all Michiganders to find a COVID-19 vaccine location near them at to protect themselves and their families."

Messages seeking comment from four Michigan U.S. House members – U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Township), U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly), U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Rochester Hills) and U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib(D-Detroit – were not returned prior to publication.

Dr. Pino Colone, president of the Michigan State Medical Society, said the organization hopes Mr. Biden’s announcement will lead to more vaccinations.

"Whether the vaccine is required or not, it is safe and it works. Getting it is the single best thing a person can do to survive COVID 19," he said.

John Walsh, president and CEO of the Michigan Manufacturers Association, which has strongly encouraged people to get vaccinated, warned against the Biden plan.

"Broad stroke employment mandates fail to recognize the unique nuances of each workplace, workforce and community," he said in a statement. "Flexibility to implement suitable workplace safety policies is critical to employee safety, talent recruitment and retention, and the ability to compete in a global economy. MMA has also had a strong position of support for vaccination as the best method to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Voluntary incentive programs to promote vaccination make sense. However, government mandates that place enormous costs and logistical burdens on employers while they struggle with fragile supply chains and talent shortages could be devastating to our burgeoning economic recovery. In short, government using employers as a pawn is an improper exercise of authority. Providing incentives is the logical and most successful approach to dealing with the pandemic."

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland) said Mr. Biden lacks the authority to mandate vaccinations via executive order.

And U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar (R-Midland) questioned the constitutionality of the order.

"The federal government has no right to impose this requirement on private businesses or private citizens," Mr. Moolenaar said in a statement. "President Biden declared that America was free from COVID restrictions in July, but now he is reluctant to let the American people make their own decisions. This federal overreach is alarming and every American should be concerned about how this president and future presidents will abuse the power of the federal government to make Americans do what they want. I encourage everyone to get one of the vaccines and protect themselves from COVID-19, and I trust Michigan residents to do what is best for them and their families."

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph), in a tweet, noted he has "been a vocal supporter of the COVID vaccines, but this unfortunate overreach by the Biden Admin will disincentivize folks from getting the shot & hurt our economic recovery. I expect the courts to strike down this Executive Order which lacks the force of law."


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