November 8, 2020
Election activities and news dominated the landscape in the last month. The Michigan Legislature met on October 13 and 21 and November 5 since the last report.
COVID-19 cases are exploding in Michigan with an average of 20 dying each day as of this writing. The State’s seven-day average for new cases rose to 3,798 with that number quadrupling in the past month. Some 10.3 percent of those tested are testing positive as of November 3. For months, the State was hovering at 3 percent testing positive. That began to climb sharply in October. Hospitalizations have nearly tripled since the same time last month. Deaths are also increasing.
Of the 2,487 Intensive Care Unit beds in use statewide for all reasons, 2,059 are in use. And of the 23,439 inpatient beds in Michigan for all patients, 17,786 are in use.
The Upper Peninsula is experiencing the highest case rate at 509 cases per million, Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun reported, with the Jackson region experiencing the lowest case rate at 193 cases per million. Sandwiched between are the Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo regions with each seeing case rates at 371 per million and the Traverse City region is at 200 cases per million. Dr. Khaldun said if we don’t change our behaviors, we could be seeing up to 100 deaths a day by the end of December. Governor Whitmer recently called on Michigan’s GOP legislative leaders to pass mask mandate legislation to send a strong bi-partisan message and provide clarity.
Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits will increase 1.3 percent in 2021 it was announced on October 13. The maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $142,800.
The earnings limit for workers who are younger than “full” retirement age will increase to $18,960. (Social Security deducts $1 from benefits for each $2 earned over $18,960.) The earnings limit for people reaching their “full” retirement age in 2021 will increase to $50,520. (Social Security deducts $1 from benefits for each $3 earned over $50,520 until the month the worker turns “full” retirement age.) There is no limit on earnings for workers who are “full” retirement age or older for the entire year.
Information about Medicare premium changes for 2021, when announced, will be available at www.medicare.gov. For Social Security beneficiaries receiving Medicare, Social Security will not be able to compute their new monthly benefit amount until after the Medicare premium amounts for 2021 are announced. Final 2021 benefit amounts will be communicated to beneficiaries in December through the mailed Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) notice and my Social Security’s Message Center.
YOUR COLA NOTICE
In December 2020, Social Security COLA notices will be available online to most beneficiaries in the Message Center of their my Social Security account in early December. The snail mail version will be mailed throughout December.
UIA and MIOSHA Retirees — Under Public Act (PA) 230 of 202 (Senate Bill 911) that Governor Whitmer signed on October 20, certain defined benefit retirees from the Unemployment Insurance Agency or the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration can be rehired without losing retirement benefits. The new law largely replaces the Governor’s Executive Order 2020-76.
Section 68c of the State Employees’ Retirement Act was added by 2007 PA 95 to eliminate the practice, often referred to as “double-dipping,” in which a State employee retires and returns to work for the State, drawing both retirement benefits and a salary. It initially required the forfeiture of retirement benefits during any period in which a retiree returned to State work if he or she were either directly employed or indirectly hired through a third-party contract. 2010 PA 185 expanded the benefit forfeiture to include employment with the State indirectly as an independent contractor.
Section 68c has been subsequently amended several times to create specific exceptions to this rule, typically for hard-to-fill positions or professions. Currently, it includes the following exceptions, each of which has specifically applicable provisions:
Health Care Immunity — PA 240 of 2020 (House Bill (HB) 6159) called the Pandemic Health Care Immunity Act, was signed by the Governor on October 22, 2020. It will provide immunity from liability to a health care provider or health care facility that provided health care services under specific circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The covered health care entities would not be liable for an injury (including death) sustained by an individual because of those services. This immunity from liability applies regardless of how, under what circumstances, or by what cause the injuries were sustained. However, it does not apply if it is established that the provision of the services constituted willful misconduct, gross negligence, intentional and willful criminal misconduct, or intentional infliction of harm by the health care provider or health care facility. The act also does not apply to claims covered by the Workers’ Disability Compensation Act.
Surprise Medical Billing — PA 234 of 2020 (HB 4459) would regulate charges by non-participating, out-of-network providers. Under the new law, a nonparticipating provider would have to accept, and a patient’s insurer would have to pay, either 150 percent of the Medicare fee schedule or the median amount negotiated by the patient’s insurer for the region and provider specialty, whichever was greater.
Nursing Homes — New PA 231 of 2020 (Senate Bill 1094) prohibits the admittance of COVID-19-positive patients to nursing homes from another facility and allows for the creation of centralized intake facilities. New PA 244 (HB 6137) establishes additional requirements for certain homes for the aged and nursing homes dedicated as Care and Recovery (CARE) facilities and residents who test positive for coronavirus.
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