Michigan's Medicaid work rules bill heads to Gov. Snyder

click to enlarge Michigan Sen. Mike Shirkey - Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo
Michigan Sen. Mike Shirkey

Michigan lawmakers have sent Gov. Rick Snyder a bill that would require an estimated 540,000 of the state's able-bodied Medicaid recipients to work at least 80 hours per month in order to retain their health benefits.

The measure received final approval from the state Senate today, after the House yesterday passed an amended version of the original plan proposed by Sen. Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake). The amendments reduced the work requirements from 30 hours per week to 80 hours per month. The bill was also changed to apply to only able-bodied adults enrolled in the state's expanded Healthy Michigan program. Lawmakers also struck from the bill a seemingly racist exemption, which would have allowed people in rural, white areas of high unemployment to keep their benefits without working. Exemptions are now only available to caretakers or people who are disabled, pregnant, receiving unemployment, or who meet a "good cause" temporary exemption.
About five to 10 percent of recipients to whom the requirements would apply — or up to 54,000 people — are expected to drop out or leave program, an analysis by the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency found. The bill, whose Republican supporters have claimed is not about saving money but about getting people working, would save the state between $7 million and $22 million, the fiscal report found.

Snyder negotiated with Shirkey for amendments to the bill. If signed, it would take effect in 2020 after the state gets a waiver from the federal government.

"The Governor is supportive of what passed both chambers but he will need to review the final version thoroughly since it underwent a number of changes during the legislative process," his spokeswoman, Tanya Baker, says in an email.

There are currently more than 660,000 Michiganders enrolled in Health Michigan. Qualifying residents must live in households with earnings that are between 100 percent and 133 percent of the federal poverty line, which is about $12,000 for an individual.

Medicaid was expanded in 31 states and D.C. as part of the Affordable Health Care Act, and has resulted in a reported 14 million more people being insured. Michigan is one of several states with Republican-led legislatures have taken steps to gut the expansion. So far, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Indiana have received the waivers needed from the federal government to add work rules to their expanded Medicaid programs.

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