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Crain’s Grand Rapids Business Brief

Crain's Grand Rapids Business

Mark Sanchez from Crain’s Grand Rapids Business joins us to discuss:

-Health care worker ad campaign

-Controlling escalating drug costs

-Regulating non-alcoholic beer in taprooms

Patrick Center: Wednesday afternoon, time for our bi-monthly conversation with Crain’s Grand Rapids Business senior writer Mark Sanchez. This is a story that just won’t go away and that is finding health care workers in this state. And there's a new ad campaign hoping to reverse that shortage.

Mark Sanchez: Yeah, I like to say it's the story that just keeps on giving. And it's not just health care but all across the economy, but this particular story’s focused on the health care industry; hospitals and health care and the folks have gotten together in the industry, spearheaded by the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, that this week rolled out an ad campaign. You'll see these no social media platforms and digital ads online basically encouraging people who are in high school, college age, the younger generation to look at health care as their career path. And it's not just more nurses, doctors, technicians, but also all those other support jobs in health care that help run a hospital. They mention and social media managers, a marketing, accounting and finance professionals, maintenance, maintaining all of that medical equipment in the facility. There are thousands of jobs open in health care across the state the Health and Hospital Association estimates, based on polling of its members, 27,000 jobs open in the healthcare industry in Michigan right now, 8,000 of those are nurses. So these are start saying seeing this week popping up online and on your social media platforms. And the hope is to kind of play that seed, in a long-term way, to encourage people to look at health care for their career path.

[audio from health care advertisement]

MS: They’re well-paying jobs. The average for the industry $65,000 a year. It's a campaign that's going to run through September. But that's one of the hooks is that they pay well. They're looking at it maybe as a calling, that broader aspect of health care, helping the world, helping people, helping people who are injured or ill and helping them heal by contributing to the operations of that facility, of the hospital or to a health care provider. That's kind of the appeal that they're relying on in some of these ads. And we’ll see where it goes, they have ways to look at this after September; how’s it working? How did it work? But they're also hoping to secure some additional funding and find a little more money to continue these ads beyond September because it is a big, big issue in health care, as I mentioned, as well as across the entire economy, not enough people out there to fill the open jobs. We have a stagnant population. The boomers are retiring. There's not enough people coming into the workforce to replace retirees. So, everybody needs to compete for the workforce that's out there. And this is health care’s way of maybe ratcheting up the competition a little bit.

PC: We're talking with Crain’s Grand Rapids Business, senior writer Mark Sanchez controlling escalating drug costs. Some state lawmakers are stepping in trying to rein in those costs.

MS: You know, just once I would love to run a story about health care that says “costs are going down! Prices are going down!” Obviously, we've seen some action in the last year and this year on insulin, the president's initiative and 3, the big pharma companies came back and said the up we will lower costs for insulin to $35 for that one-month supply. So there's some hope you have this organization formed a couple years ago called Civica Rx Corwell Health, here in Grand Rapids as an investor. It's bringing a generic version of insulin to market and there's a market competition. Market forces hopefully will lower those costs. But on a much broader scale, and I hear there's so much from the health plans I talked to another folks and health care about just escalating drug costs and where they're going. So now the Democrats in control of the legislature in Lansing, they’re trying to rein these in this effort has been tried before in the recent years. The last think 2 or 3 legislative sessions in the legislation didn't go anywhere. It didn't get enough support. Now the Democrats are in control of the House and Senate in Lansing so there's a bill the road was here last week to would basically require the pharmaceutical companies to disclose data on the costs and the pricing of a drug. If they raised their price more than 15% or more than a year or 40% over 3 years. And it would affect prescription drugs that have a wholesale cost of $500 or more for a 30-day supply. We talked to folks who are back in this, including the Michigan Association of Health Plans that represents the HMO's in Michigan. So this is kind of the first step, which is you need to get data. You need to get an understanding of why these drugs keep going up and how the pharmaceutical companies set their pricing. And there's a lot that goes into the cost of that prescription drug. You buy over the counter on the retail level. You know, we won't go down that road right now. But basically this legislation is what's described as a first step. Start gathering data require the pharma companies to report data and then you could see much more down the road based on what that looks like.

PC: Speaking of regulations and I don't know that there's a whole lot of data in this story. But Michigan breweries and distributors are battling over nonalcoholic beer and tap rooms.

MS: Yeah, this is a story this week, by my coworker here, Crain’s Grand Rapids business, Abby Poirier. It's kind of an interesting look at the situation that’s evolving. There are some of your tap rooms, these small Brewers backroom brewers. But based on their customer demands would like to sell and serve non-alcoholic beer in their establishment. And that's running into the state regulation. And that's basically how do you interpret, you know, what is beer at issue in this is how what Abby explains in the story is the Michigan Liquor Control Commission defines beer based on how it is brewed, the fermentation process, regardless of the alcohol volume or in this case, no alcohol volume. So therefore, there's an issue in how it gets distributed. You have to go through the through a wholesaler. And there are issues there that add to the cost because apparently there's a little more cost involved in brewing non-alcohol beer to kind of de-alcohol, lies if I can say it correctly. It's an interesting issue about how is this regulation interpreted. We talked to a gentleman who was the attorney that specializes in the craft brewing industry and says basically that well he doesn’t think the wine and beer wholesalers association or the Liquor Control Commission is quite interpreting the regulation the right way, because Michigan Constitution, is also an issue here and it defines alcoholic beverages as any beverage containing one half of one percent or more of alcohol by volume, then you can regulate it at the state level. Well, non-alcohol beer doesn't contain any alcohol. But again, the Liquor Control Commission is interpreting the regulation as based beer is based on the fermentation process and therefore it regulates. So it's it's kind of convoluted situation that's going to have to work its way out. But it was a kind of an interesting take on the subject. Bottom line, the taprooms would like to serve non-alcohol beer but there's a common issue with the state regulation that gets in the way of that

PC: Crain’s Grand Rapids business senior writer Mark Sanchez, thank you so much.

MS: Thank you, Patrick.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.
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