Corporatism, Privatization, Rick Snyder — February 12, 2016 at 12:21 pm

Gov. Snyder moves to privatize mental health services in latest budget proposal


Crain’s is reporting that, buried in Governor Rick Snyder’s budget proposal is a section that will shift public funding and delivery of mental health services to private corporations. The move is being fought by patient advocates and the Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards.

Gov. Rick Snyder’s $54.9 billion fiscal 2017 budget calls for privatizing the $2.4 billion public mental health system by turning over state funding to Medicaid HMOs.

In what is called “boilerplate” language at the end of Snyder’s 408-page executive budget bill, Section 298 calls for carving in behavioral health benefits to the health plans by the end of fiscal 2017, which ends Sept. 30, 2017. […]

Officials with the Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards, which is opposed to the plan, have called for an all-out lobbying effort targeted at key policymakers and state legislators, who will be holding hearings on the budget request over the next few months.

In other words, instead of state and local agencies providing services for things like behavioral health, substance abuse, and developmentally disabled populations, provision of these services would be handed over to private, for-profit HMOs.

Proponents of the effort to shift tax dollars from state-provided services to private corporations say the move will save money for the state by eliminating duplication of administration and bureaucracy. Opponents are not so sure:

[CEO of the community mental health board association Robert] Sheehan said the promises of savings to the state may be a mirage. His initial analysis shows administrative costs for the “prepaid inpatient health plans,” or PIHPs, commonly called mental health authorities, average about 6 percent of costs, compared with the 12 percent administrative costs of HMOs. […]

Tom Watkins, CEO of the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority, said he has been hearing from many family members and advocates who are very concerned about the state privatizing the public mental health system.

“They are cautioning the Governor against moving toward what they see as a profitizing the system of care for their family members,” Watkins said in an email to Crain’s.

Watkins said the Detroit Wayne authority has cut more than $30 million from its overhead structure the past several years that has generated greater services to its patients.

This is clearly another example of privatizing a system that’s working in order to shift tax dollars to private corporations. Those most impacted by the move have little political voice and will bear the brunt of any degradation of services. And, as has been proven time and time again, when corporate profits are on the line, corners will be cut and the recipients of the services are harmed.

In other words, just another day under the governance of a self-described CEO-style governor who sees privatization as the panacea to all our fiscal woes.

[CC photo credit: publik15 | Flickr]