Chamber-Backed Business Liability Protections Signed Into Law

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Thursday signed into law legal protections for Michigan businesses and other employers from pandemic-related lawsuits despite having followed all safety protocols and regulations. The Chamber has played a key role in advancing these business protections through the coronavirus crisis.

She also codified rules shielding hospitals and other medical providers from such legal action except in cases of gross negligence, from late March to mid-July, in the wake of the state Supreme Court’s ruling on her executive orders. These bills also require employers to allow workers who are exposed to COVID-19 or exhibit the symptoms of COVID-19 to stay home, and prohibit retaliation against employees for staying home when sick or exposed to the virus.

Also signed Thursday was a bill to codify and augment her administration’s recently announced changes related to the care of nursing home residents recovering from the coronavirus. A nursing home can be a designated “care and recovery” center to house COVID-19 patients — similarly to the current “hub” system — only if it has a federal staffing rating of at least three out of five stars, a distinct area for infected patients, and staff solely dedicated to treating them.

A person hospitalized with the virus cannot be discharged to a nursing home if he or she has fewer than 72 hours left in their isolation period unless the hospital has reached its surge capacity. A nursing home not deemed a care and recovery center can admit or readmit infected residents if it has a state-approved designated area for them.

The Governor also signed into law bills that seek to combat the potential for unexpected high out-of-network charges for medical procedures. The “surprise medical billing” protections cover instances when a patient receives care at an in-network hospital but sees an out-of-network doctor, in which case the insurance company will pay the doctor according to a formula specified in the bill. The bills also provide for certain good-faith cost estimate disclosures in nonemergency situations and other consumer protections. Additionally, the bills limit the ability of an out-of-network provider to bill a patient directly for certain emergency costs, rather the provider and the insurer will now settle the disputed charge.


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