He’s Running As A Doctor But Can’t Practice . . . Does It Matter?
Matt Longjohn’s chief selling point in his Michigan 6th Congressional district run is that he’s a medical doctor. But he can’t practice medicine in Michigan because he isn’t professionally licensed in this state or in Illinois, where he formerly worked.
Longjohn, the Democrats’ nominee in the southwest Michigan district, has made a career on the administrative side of health care, most significantly as the first-ever National Health Officer for the 2,700 YMCAs in the United States when he worked in Chicago.
In campaign materials, he refers to himself as Dr. Matt Longjohn, MD, and uses the squiggly heartbeat signal to punctuate the point. But according to the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, he’s never been licensed as a health professional in Michigan.
And whether he’s allowed to describe himself as such under the Michigan Public Health Code is an open question in the legal community.
The Public Health Code (333.16261) reads “an individual who is not licensed or registered under this article shall not use an insignia, title or letter . . . to induce the belief that the person is licensed or registered in this state.” Asked if that means Longjohn is in violation of the code by presenting himself in a political campaign as a doctor when he is not licensed to practice, LARA spokesperson Pardeep Toor simply referred MIRS back to this section of law.
Four attorneys that specialize in healthcare that were contacted by MIRS were split on the question.
Mike Stevenson from the East Lansing firm of Willingham & Cote said this type of question about the use of the title “doctor” has come up before among his colleagues and there are “varying opinions” on it.
“In my opinion, it’s not untruthful. If he has a medical degree, he is telling the truth. As long as he’s not practicing,” Stevenson said he doesn’t see a problem.
A second attorney questioned by MIRS agreed that as long as Longjohn wasn’t advertising his services as a medical professional, he not sure there’s a problem.
However, practicing medicine in Michigan without being a licensed doctor is a felony and while what Longjohn is doing doesn’t rise to that level, attorney Ronald Chapman II, of Troy, isn’t comfortable with it. He viewed the usage of the terms as “problematic” in that it gives people the impression he can perform medical services when that is not the case.
“I would advise my client against using these titles, particularly using the combination of the ‘MD’ and the ‘Dr.’ It insinuates you are in the practice,” Chapman said. “I don’t think that’s appropriate.”
A fourth healthcare attorney for a major Michigan firm told MIRS MCL 333.17011(5) specifically limits those using “MD” to those “authorized to use the term” as they are written. The only people who can claim to be an “MD” are those allowed by the state to be doctors of medicine, this attorney said.
Longjohn may be able to use the term “doctor,” but that’s not clear under the law, either.
“Whether he can use ‘Dr.’ depends on several factors. Does he have any other degrees? Many professors and other professionals with doctorates use the title ‘Dr.’ Technically, I can call myself a ‘Dr.’ since I have a JD degree. Is he trying to induce the belief that he is licensed?” this attorney asked.
Longjohn said he earned his medical and public health degrees from Tulane and did his internal medicine internship at Northwestern University. During that time in 2001, he received a “temporary medical permit in Illinois,” according to the state of Illinois.
Since then, he’s been a teacher, a researcher, and a leader of non-profit organizations.
“My achievements as a health care innovator came as a result of work done outside of clinical settings, where my teams developed programs, policies, and coalitions to improve the health of millions of people’s lives,” he said. “I have never once said during this campaign that I am a currently practicing physician.”
Told of Longjohn’s resume, former U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz, a physician by trade, said “it’s not unheard of” for the carrier of a medical license to not get licensed as a doctor in the state in which he or she is living, but “it is odd.”
“It raises the question to me, ‘Why do you not have a Michigan license?'” Schwarz asked. “To me, I can see where, if I were running against him, this would be duplicitous. He can call himself a doctor, but he can’t practice? I just find it odd.”
MRP Says Longjohn Playing Doctor On TV
The Michigan Republican Party believes Democratic 6th Congressional District nominee Matt Longjohn is “misrepresenting himself” as an “MD” in conflict with Michigan law, because he is calling himself a doctor when he isn’t licensed to practice in Michigan or seemingly anywhere else.
Longjohn is calling himself “Dr. Matt Longjohn MD” in his campaign materials, while using a heartbeat monitor line to his campaign material to stress his medical competence.
Longjohn did complete medical school at Tulane and held a temporary medical license in Illinois during his residency at Northwestern, but that expired in 2001, MIRS reported.
He’s since gone on the administrative track with his medical degree, working on issues such as diabetes and running health issues for the YMCA in Chicago. However, Michigan Republican Party Deputy Chief of Staff Sarah Anderson concurs with an attorney contacted by MIRS that Longjohn is running afoul with the Public Health Code by claiming to be a MD when he isn’t licensed to see any patients.
“Matt Longjohn may not be a doctor, but he plays one on TV,” Anderson said. “Matt Longjohn is lying about his experience to win votes on the critical issues of healthcare. Voters deserve better. If Longjohn is willing to misrepresent himself about this, where does he draw the line?”
But speaking on Michigan’s Big Show recently, Dr. Rob Davidson, the Democrats’ congressional candidate in the 2nd District, said he went to medical school with Longjohn and he doesn’t believe there is any false advertising in Longjohn using the titles “MD” or “Dr.”
“He’s a doctor. He’s chosen a path of post-training to promote policy in a bigger way,” Davidson said. “He was YMCA national health director. He did many things for diabetes, education, prevention, health eating. He worked with Michelle Obama.
“I know Matt. Matt and I went to college together. We lived down the hall from each other and it’s exciting to me that people who come at health care from many different angles are running for Congress.”
Groups Band Together To Create Health Plan For Small Businesses
Two of Michigan’s leading small business organizations announced the creation of a new health insurance program, known as an Association Health Plan (AHP), that they say could actually lower rates for small businesses.
Rob Fowler, president and CEO of the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM), predicted savings “with some confidence of 3 to 5 percent in the first year.”
In the longer term, we will be able to negotiate on behalf of a very large group—and the rates will be based on the experience of the group so it is experience-rated as a group, not each of the companies themselves but the group—so in the third and fourth years, if we have good experience … We have talked a lot about the trajectory of health care costs or bending the cost curve. I think we are actually going to bend it down, not just not going up so fast,” he said.
“Rates have been going up year over year for many years. We are talking about rates going down,” said Jennifer Kluge, president and CEO of the Michigan Business and Professional Association.
Under an executive order signed by the president in October 2017 reforming the Affordable Care Act and under new rules drafted by the U.S. Department of Labor to implement it, SBAM and MichBusiness joined together to form a nonprofit 501-c6 and create one of the first AHPs in the country, named TranscendAHP.
An AHP allows small businesses and their employees and self-employed workers to band together by geography or industry to obtain health care coverage as if they were a single large employer. The strength of an AHP is creating negotiating power by creating large risk pools with greater economies of scale.
Fowler said a key to getting rates as low possible is getting bigger numbers in the plan.
“Actuaries believe that about 40 percent of the marketplace would do better in an association health plan. Forty percent of Blue Cross’ small group market would be 90,000, that’s employees,” he said.
“Access to comprehensive health insurance programs continues to rank at the top of small business owners’ concerns. Combined with a tight labor market, our members need options that allow them to compete with much larger companies for the talent they need to be successful,” Kluge said.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the Blue Care Network was selected as the provider, which will give small businesses access to options that previously had only been available to larger companies.
TranscendAHP will be available to businesses of between one and 50 employees. There are membership requirements, but the new plan will be ready to start providing quotes this week to businesses interested in signing up for coverage beginning Jan. 1.
More information about the plan is available at the plans website at https://transcendmichigan.org/
“We are happy to say that we designed this to benefit the small business community, we also made it open to all independent insurance agents, so we are not competing. We are open to everyone. That’s the whole thing, we are open to everyone and we are not creating more competition. We really want to make this successful,” Kluge said.
Union-Backed Health Care Bus Rolls Into 6th, 8th CD
A pro-Affordable Care Act group fueled by organized labor money rolled its bus in front of the Capitol Oct. 3 as a backdrop to a general condemnation of U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop’s (R-Rochester) support of the U.S. House Republicans’ healthcare bill.
Protect Our Care is drawing attention to how congressional Republicans passed a re-work of the ACA earlier in the term, but the reforms never made it out of the U.S. Senate.
Former gubernatorial nominee Mark Schauer, Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-East Lansing) and House Minority Leader Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) stood with a pair of cancer survivors in arguing how Republicans “need to be held accountable” for wanting to dismantle the ACA.
The bus rolled on later in the day to Kalamazoo, where 6th District Congressional candidate Matt Longjohn held a press conference with state Senate candidate Sean McCann.
In Lansing, cancer survivor Amanda Itliong apologized for being delayed in getting to the press conference. Moments earlier, she was in a parking lot throwing up. It’s something that she’s had to get used to as she’s gone through treatment.
She proceeded to give emotional testimony about how the certainty of the ACA has helped her get through the challenges for her multiple bouts with cancer and the anxiety that comes with worrying about losing her health insurance. She fingered Bishop House Republicans for wanting to gut the law.
“Mike Bishop is my representative, but he doesn’t represent me,” Itliong said.
Laura Packard added that as a stage four cancer survivor, she’d be either bankrupt or dead if it weren’t for the ACA.
“President Trump may have blocked me on Twitter, but he can’t stop me and the American people from fighting to protect our care,” Packard said.
The Protect Our Care bus tour is rolling from late September to early November through 23 mostly swing states, such as Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa, Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia.
Supremes Decline To Hear Appeal Requesting Flint Water Case Goes To COC
The Michigan Supreme Court declined Oct. 2 to hear an appeal of a lower court’s decision that transferred a Flint water case from the Court of Claims to Genesee County Circuit Court.
The Court of Appeals said COC Judge Christopher Murray “properly transferred” the case, Melissa Mays et. al v. Governor, State of Michigan, et. al.
The MSC also declined the plaintiffs’ motion to dismiss the defendants’ June 19 application to appeal and a motion to stay the lower court proceedings.
Justice Elizabeth Clement did not participate in the court’s decision due to her prior involvement as chief legal counsel for Gov. Rick Snyder, a named defendant.
Mays and 18 other named plaintiffs allege Snyder, State of Michigan and former treasurer Andy Dillon violated the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.
Flint switched its water source from Lake Huron to Flint River in April 2014 and the river was not properly treated, allowing lead to leach.
In related news, Mays was one of a number of Flint community leaders and residents speaking out against Attorney General Bill Schuette for allegedly “trying to brush off his record of failing and then ignoring” Flint residents’ complaints about the water in 2014 and 2015. The press conference was held this afternoon in Flint.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court declined Tuesday to hear Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) employees’ writ of certiorari in Nappier et. al v. Stephen Busch et. al, which also is related to the Flint water crisis.
Applicants Will Know Early If An Old Conviction Will Keep Them From License
License applicants will be able to learn early in the process if an old criminal conviction is going lead to denial, under three bills reported out of House Regulatory Reform Committee Oct. 2.
The bills, HB 6058, sponsored by Rep. Scott Vansingel (R-Grant); HB 6059, by Rep. Terry Sabo (D-Muskegon); and HB 6060, by Rep. Jim Lilly (R-Holland) allow the applicants to get a preliminary determination of eligibility from the state before they sign up for courses or put down money for testing fees.
“We don’t want people to spend the money for the licensure and then not being able to get it, taking the course work and not being able to get a license,” Committee Chair Rep. Brandt Iden (R-Kalamazoo) explained.
The bills were added into a four-bill package intended to remove barriers to licensure for people with old convictions.
Some 200 occupations and professions in Michigan require a license, equaling about 20 percent of available jobs.
“This is really an issue that so many folks, as I talk to them throughout the state, talk about. People that have got past criminal convictions that cannot get licensure because one issue that happened 20, 30 years ago. And if we want to talk about filling gaps in the workforce, which we hear from all of our employers in the state of Michigan, we need to make sure we are addressing that,” Iden said.
Iden’s HB 6110 would change the definition of “good moral character” to keep a conviction from being the sole reason for license rejection or a permanent ban. Licenses would still be reviewed by the department, most often the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
Many licenses have a list of specific crimes which would result in denial. HB 6111, by Rep. Beth Griffin (R-Paw Paw), would address health occupations; HB 6112, Rep. Michele Hoitenga (R-Manton), skilled trades; HB 6113, by Rep. Joseph Bellino (R-Monroe), addresses eligibility requirements; and HB 6381, by Rep. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield), would require an annual report on the denial of licenses based on lack of good moral character.
All bills were reported out in 15-0 votes.
Iden has a related bill, HB 5881, to ease the prohibition of employing casino workers and suppliers who have convictions, but the bill is being reworked to make general updates to the Gaming Control Act.
Supremes Decline To Stop Healthy Kids Contract
The Michigan Supreme Court denied a Florida insurance company’s request to halt implementation of the state’s Healthy Kids Dental Contract until the courts decide whether the state violated the statutory competitive bid mandate.
Scott Eldridge, attorney for the MCNA Insurance Company, said the company was disappointed in the MSC’s decision, but they will “continue to fight to shine a light on the dark corners of state government and provide much-needed transparency and accountability to a deeply flawed bidding process.”
“Michigan taxpayers deserve a full accounting of how their tax dollars are being spent and to know why a $659 million Healthy Kids Dental contract was awarded in a process fraught with illegalities and improprieties,” he said.
MCNA alleges the Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB) showed “blatant favoritism” in awarding a $659 million contract for its Healthy Kids Dental Program to Blue Cross Blue Shield, whom the state acknowledged was allowed to change its bid.
Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Joyce Draganchuk ordered state officials and DTMB to submit an affidavit and testify under oath about the awarding of the dental contract.
The state appealed Draganchuk’s decision and it went to the MSC who remanded it to the Court of Appeals for “plenary” consideration on an “expedited basis.” The contract went into effect Oct. 1.
Lansing Lines is presented in cooperation with MIRS, a Lansing-based news and information service.