February 18, 2014 at 10:35 am

State bill would restore $20M to Hutzel hospital

Lansing— An appropriations bill expected to be introduced in the state Senate Tuesday would restore roughly $20 million cut from Hutzel Women’s Hospital’s services for pregnant mothers and premature infants.

The Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder cut the funding from Michigan’s 2014 state budget, saying the funding was no longer needed because of increased payments the hospital will receive under the state’s Medicaid expansion. Part of the Detroit Medical Center (DMC), Hutzel delivers more babies than any hospital in Michigan and is at the epicenter of the state’s fight against infant mortality.

Detroit has more premature births than any city in America, and the highest infant mortality rate in the nation at 13.5 deaths for every 1,000 live births. A Detroit News study published in January found Detroit has the highest child death rate among the nation’s largest cities.

“The Hutzel Hospital is the safety net hospital for pregnant women and really fragile infants who come to us from Detroit and all over Michigan,” said DMC President and CEO Conrad Mallett, Jr. “We think that this is a critical juncture where we are. The infant mortality rates in this region and in the city of Detroit particularly are too high, and we ought to be thinking more about what we could do to manage this crisis.”

Mallett said the Medicaid expansion won't increase funding for the DMC because most of its patients are already on Medicaid.

Hutzel houses the Perinatology Research Branch, the National Institutes of Health’s only center for advanced research and treatment of at-risk babies in the country. The Detroit News’ study found 2,300 Detroit babies died before their first birthday between 2000 and 2011, the most recent year data is available from the Michigan Department of Community Health.

“They use this to support all levels of pediatric hospitalization, including neonatal, and premature babies that require support,” said Senate Finance Chair Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw, who plans to introduce the bill. “It goes to support pediatric needs such as kids who have sickle cell anemia, women with high-risk pregnancies, HIV, and other things.

If approved by lawmakers, the funding would be restored as part of a roughly $265 million supplemental appropriations bill that includes $6.7 million for Hutzel from the state’s general fund. Because the money is matched roughly two-to-one by the federal government, it equates to roughly $20 million for Hutzel.

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

The supplemental appropriations bill will also include about $25 million to replace federal funding Michigan lost out on because lawmakers implemented the Medicaid expansion in April, rather than in January. Other appropriations will go for road maintenance and individual appropriations for projects involving schools and local communities.