FILE - Nursing home, retirement

(The Center Square) – Michigan’s 65-and-older demographic has grown to approximately 25% of the state’s population; 37% of the state is 50-years-old or older; and the state’s fastest growing age group is 85 and up.

In response to the increase in the state’s middle-aged and elderly population, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday she had signed an executive order to establish the Health and Aging Services Administration.

EO 2021-14 establishes HASA, which will be housed within the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The agency aims to better coordinate services by merging the former MDHHS Aging and Adult Services Agency and Medical Services Administration as well as the state Medicaid Office.

“Older Michiganders deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and by dedicating resources at the state level, we can ensure they have the resources they need to have a secure retirement, access to high-quality healthcare, attainable, affordable housing, and more,” Whitmer said in a statement. “The Michigan Department of Health and Human Service’s new Health and Aging Services Administration will stay laser-focused on helping aging adults thrive, coordinate effectively across agencies and departments to enact lasting change, and get things done that make a real difference in people’s lives.” 

According to Thursday’s news release, HASA will retain current staff positions, which it claims will provide for greater collaboration as well as better and more efficient delivery of MDHHS programs. No new hires have been announced.

Merging operations is intended to streamline long-term support services previously delivered through multiple areas of MDHHS by:

  • Providing additional capacity to serve the intentions of older adults who prefer to age in place – defined by the CDC as “the ability to live in one's own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably.” 
  • Increasing speed in the delivery of services. 
  • Aligning with long-term care support and services to community-based services through the federal Older Americans Act; the MI Choice Waiver Program that allows eligible aging adults to receive Medicaid-covered services like those provided by nursing homes but can stay in their own home or another residential setting; and the Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) that provides Medicaid and Medicare funding for frail, elderly people who meet the criteria for long-term care. 
  • Making the Bureau of Medicaid Long-Term Care Services and Support responsible for programs associated with the Older Michiganians Act overseen by the administrator of the new administration. 
  • Transferring the Michigan Commission on Services to the Aging and Adult Community Placement program from the former Aging and Adult Services Agency to MDHHS itself. 

“Long-term care policy will now come from one coordinated area of MDHHS,” Kate Massey, the newly appointed senior deputy director of the new administration, said in a statement. Massey had served previously as senior deputy director for MSA. “We expect these changes to allow smoother transitions across the continuum of care – including for older adults who prefer to age in place. Services to our aging population are a critically important part of MDHHS’s work.”

Regional Editor

Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.