COVID-19 Update: TCF Center Medical Site to be Ready April 9, Blue Cross Waives Out-of-pocket Costs for COVID-19, MEDC Grants Available for Companies Converting to PPE Production, and More

Seeking to limit the spread of COVID-19, here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the pandemic as well as announcements from local, state, and federal governments, and international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.
Bridge map of Michigan coronavirus cases
Courtesy of Bridge, as of April 1

Seeking to limit the spread of COVID-19, here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the pandemic as well as announcements from local, state, and federal governments, and international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.

COVID-19 Michigan Executive Order
On Wednesday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-33, which recognizes the expanded scope of economic, educational, and civic dislocation caused by COVID-19, and equips the administration to address fully the devastation caused by virus. The order also formally declares a state of disaster.

In addition to issuing Executive Order 2020-33, Governor Whitmer sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield requesting a concurrent resolution extending this declared state of emergency and disaster under Executive Order 20-33 by 70 days from the date of the resolution.

The Legislature will address the request when it returns to session on April 7.

While the governor has multiple independent powers to address the challenges Michigan now faces, the powers invoked by Executive Order 2020-33 provide important protections and should remain a part the state’s ongoing efforts to combat this pandemic. The individual emergency orders, including Executive Order 2020-21 (Stay Home, Stay Safe), expire at the time stated in each order, unless otherwise continued.

To view Executive Order 2020-33 and the Governor’s request to the legislature to extend the declared state of emergency and disaster, click here and here.

Federal Medical Station
By April 9, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the Michigan National Guard plan to complete the installation of a 1,000-bed Federal Medical Station (FMS) at TCF Center in downtown Detroit. Another COVID-19 field hospital of similar size may be set up at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi. Michigan National Guard members will augment FEMA, assisting with inventory of equipment and supplies as the FMS is established as an ad hoc site at TCF Center to receive COVID-19 cases during a period of surge demand. The FMS received by the State of Michigan supports the 1,000-bed alternate care site being established at the TCF Center for patients who don’t require a ventilator.

Health Insurance
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network are expanding coverage for services related to COVID-19 – waiving all member copays, deductibles, and coinsurance for COVID-19 testing and treatment. The coverage applies to commercial PPO, Medicare Advantage PPO and HMO plans.

“In these incredibly difficult times, if our members contract COVID-19, Blue Cross will stand behind them all the way,” says Daniel J. Loepp, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “We want our members to get the care they need to treat COVID-19 successfully, without worrying about the cost.”

BCBSM and BCN are taking the following steps to help members during the current public health crisis caused by the spread of the coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease:

  • BCBSM and BCN will waive member cost sharing for physician-authorized COVID-19 testing. In line with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, COVID-19 testing and all services that result in ordering or administration of a COVID-19 test will be covered without member cost share as of March 18. Testing and associated services must be consistent with CDC guidelines.
  • Blue Cross will waive member cost sharing for all COVID-19 treatment through June 30. Blue Cross will cover, with no member cost share, all COVID-19 treatment provided to members on an inpatient or outpatient basis, from both in-network and out-of-network providers.

Blue Cross considers these changes immediately applicable to all members in all lines of business.  BCBSM will work with employer group customers that are self-insured to make decisions regarding their own benefits.

These initiatives are in addition to the following previously announced steps Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is taking to protect members from COVID-19:

  • Covering telehealth medical services at no cost through June 30 for members with existing telehealth medical benefits.
  • Waiving prior authorizations for diagnostic tests and for covered services that are medically necessary and consistent with CDC guidance if diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Covering the full cost of medically necessary laboratory tests to diagnose COVID-19 infection consistent with CDC guidance.
  • Increasing access to prescription medications by waiving early medication refill limits on 30-day prescription maintenance medications (consistent with member’s benefit plan) and encouraging members to use 90-day mail order benefits if available.

Blue Cross encourages members to work with appropriate public health authorities before seeking testing for COVID-19.  The company is posting information on its blog and website to inform customers and members of the latest on the national impact of coronavirus and provide counsel on what to do and where to seek care if members come down with symptoms.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network also have put in place services and support to enable qualified displaced workers and small employers to continue their individual health coverage or transition from group coverage to an individual plan, potentially qualifying for federal subsidies to lower their premiums. The companies also are offering help and guidance to Michigan small businesses who are having trouble maintaining their coverage or seeking assistance for workers.

Both Blue Cross’ health plan advisers and local insurance agents can enroll people in health insurance coverage online, so social distancing guidelines can be maintained throughout the process.  Subsidized coverage is a significant support for people who have lost employer coverage along with a job – but also people enrolled in individual plans who have seen their incomes drop.

Individuals seeking help from Blue Cross can find it by calling 877-610-2583 or online here.

The Michigan Economic Development Corp.’s Pure Michigan Business Connect program has launched a new grant program providing a total of $1 million in grants to Michigan’s small manufacturers looking to retool and produce critical health and human service supplies in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Michigan has the manufacturing strength, innovation, and determination to lead the charge in establishing an Arsenal of Health to address the shortage of critical supplies we are facing as a result of the COVID-19 virus,” says Mark A. Burton, CEO of MEDC. “The PMBC COVID-19 Emergency Access and Retooling Grants program will provide immediate assistance to small businesses around the state who are ready to step up and use their manufacturing know-how and retool to support recovery efforts in this time of need.”

The PMBC COVID-19 Emergency Access and Retooling Grants program will award grants of $10,000 to $150,000 to companies that can quickly and effectively manufacture critical health and human service supplies. Michigan small businesses (per SBA size standards) and established nonprofits are eligible to apply. Businesses can use the funds to support the purchase of equipment necessary to manufacture critical supplies, logistics and shipping costs of procuring necessary equipment, technology upgrades and other costs related to operationalizing new product lines.

To qualify, companies must submit an application here. Eligible applications will be reviewed based on ability to execute project; need for financial assistance; timeliness; product need in market; and economic impact. Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis until the total $1 million in grant funds are expended. To learn more about the program, visit here.

While the program does not guarantee sales channels, the Pure Michigan Business Connect team will assist grantees by connecting them with demand identified through the COVID-19 Virtual Procurement and Donation Assistance portal. The portal, an effort of PMBC in collaboration with the State Emergency Operation Center, is a free, virtual procurement and donation platform that provides health and human service providers direct access to businesses within the state providing and donating supplies including personal protection equipment, food, medical devices, paper products, cleaning equipment and more.

The platform also is offering a place for companies with manufacturing capabilities for personal protection equipment to indicate which items (i.e. masks, gowns, ventilators) they are able to produce, along with quantity and timing detail. To learn more, visit here.

Medical Supplies
Iron Fish Distillery, in Thompsonville in northwest Michigan, is producing hand sanitizer for its local health services as well as the operations team at Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City.

The Iron Fish team is working around the clock making the much-needed hand sanitizer for the front-line healthcare workers at Munson Healthcare facilities throughout northern Michigan. Additionally, Iron Fish delivered to local Benzie and Manistee health and human service agencies assisting those in need living nearby from its first 50-gallon batch of hand sanitizer. The distillery ramped up production to completely satisfy the needs of the Munson Healthcare network. It currently is producing about 500 gallons a week, sufficient also to fill orders from Manistee and Benzie County human and health organizations and non-profits.  Due to limited supplies, Iron Fish Distillery is not distributing hand sanitizer to the general public.

“We went from gearing up our staffing for the summertime and working overtime producing spirits, to laying off 98 percent of our staff due to the government mandate,” says Richard Anderson, co-owner of Iron Fish. “Then we came to understand there is a critical need for hand sanitizer. The federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau issued guidance, approving already permitted distillers to make hand sanitizer. Distilleries can now manufacture hand sanitizer products comprised of ethanol, glycerol and hydrogen peroxide.”

On April 7, Stefanini, a global technology provider that has its North American headquarters in Southfield, will host a webinar, “COVID-19: Reshaping the Way We Live and Do Business,” from 11 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. Spencer Gracias, CEO of Stefanini NA and Carla Ferber, vice president of marketing, will discuss how working remotely has become the new normal – even for companies that have never done it before. They also will take a look at the various aspects of life that have been affected by the virus, including education, recreation, and communication. Registration for the webinar can be found here.

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