Able-bodied, adult Healthy Michigan recipients would need to work 80 hours a month or be in a job training program after Jan. 1, 2020 in order to keep their Medicaid coverage unless they fall under a handful of exemptions, under legislation Gov. Rick Snyder signed June 22.
Sen. Mike Shirkey’s (R-Clarklake) SB 0897 also strips Healthy Michigan recipients who chronically lie on their monthly work reports to lose their coverage for a year. The Department of Health and Human Services would receive an extra $5 million a year under the bill for the additional auditors needed to track these recipients.
The bill also restates in law a provision that legislative Republicans didn’t get in the original Healthy Michigan waiver to the federal government. It allows people to stay on Healthy Michigan for 48 months, after which they need to set aside 5 percent of their income for healthcare while also pledging to engage in healthy behaviors to stay in the program.
If the President Donald Trump administration doesn’t approve the federal waiver that would be needed to implement these policies, Healthy Michigan would end.
Snyder framed the bill signing as the preservation of his Healthy Michigan program, which has enrolled 670,000 Michiganders as of the most recent numbers.
“I am committed to ensuring the program stays in place and that Michiganders continue to live healthier lives because of it,” Snyder said in a statement.
During the legislative process, the Republicans joined the business community in support of legislation they saw as giving a push to the poor to pursue the training that would get them skilled employment. Shirkey said in response to the bill signing, “I’m glad it’s been signed. Now the real work begins. We will make this successful. It’s good for Michigan and the affected enrollees.”
But Michigan League of Public Policy President & CEO Gilda Jacobs said Snyder’s signature “betrays the plan he helped create.”
That this new law puts into place work requirements for Medicaid recipients, affecting Michigan’s “most vulnerable residents is inexcusable enough, but at the last minute even more disturbing elements—all of them thinly veiled punishments for people with low incomes were added,” she said.
“We are creating poorer people with this policy, people who need that money to pay for rent, gas food and child care,” Jacobs said. “This doesn’t make any sense.”
According to a 2016 State Budget Office report, 80 percent of adult enrollees are below 100 percent of the federal poverty level and 47 percent of adult enrollees are under the age of 35. Roughly 45 percent of all adults with income below 138 percent of federal poverty rules were on Healthy Michigan as of 2016.
House Minority Leader Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) lamented the way “this misguided and malicious legislation” was “rushed through” the House floor over the objections of House Democrats.
“If six years in the legislature taught me anything, it is that the tides turn swiftly and our constituents remember—they will surely remember this,” Singh said.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed said Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley “should be ashamed” of legislation he called “heartless and dishonest.”
“This administration is the worst kind of cowardly when it comes to standing up for the poor,” he said. “They get bullied by a strain of ideologues who blame the poor for the GOP’s failure to build a Michigan where Michiganders can find meaningful work in the first place.”
This story presented in cooperation with MIRS, a Lansing-based news and information service.