Detroit Free Press: At risk, a lifeline for the nation’s working poor

For all of these reasons, we are committed to ensuring that the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC)—two policies that are proven to help working families escape poverty and work their way up the economic ladder—remain intact for Michigan families. Aug. 25, 2015 — Detroit Free Press

 

 

The Detroit News: Steyer: Michigan needs to keep EITC

The Michigan EITC provides tax relief for Michigan families struggling to get by, even amid our economic recovery. To qualify, a family of four must have an income of about $50,000. These are people who are struggling to get by, and to provide basic services for their children. Eliminating the credit now is the wrong move. It would raise taxes on about 820,000 hard-working households in Michigan, increasing the financial burden for those who are most vulnerable to slipping back into poverty. Aug. 25, 2015 — The Detroit News

 

Healthy Michigan Plan: A Great Deal for the State and Its Residents

 

The Healthy Michigan Plan, an expansion and modification of the Medicaid program, provides comprehensive healthcare coverage to Michigan’s low-income, uninsured residents. The program was implemented April 1, 2014, and by the end of the first year achieved an unprecedented enrollment of 600,000 residents, surpassing all projections.

For calendar years 2014, 2015 and 2016, the federal government pays 100% of the cost of the program. In calendar year 2017, the state must contribute 5% of the cost, still a great deal for the state.

The program is currently operating under a federal waiver, and state law specifies a second, more difficult waiver must be approved for the program to continue after April 2016.

 

WHO IS ELIGIBLE?

Individuals between the ages of 19 and 64, not currently eligible for Medicaid or Medicare, who:

  • Are citizens or lawfully admitted to the U.S.,
  • Are not pregnant at the time of application, and
  • Have incomes less than 133% of the federal poverty level (up to $15,521 for an individual or $31,721 for a family of four).

WHAT SERVICES ARE COVERED?

The comprehensive services required by the Affordable Care Act, including doctor visits, prescriptions, hospital services, lab services, X-rays and maternity services—plus additional key services such as dental, vision, hearing, and enhanced mental health and substance use disorder services are covered. Most people will select and be enrolled in the managed care plan of their choice.

WHAT DOES IT COST?

After the first six months, nearly everyone enrolled in the program will be responsible for copays, for certain services such as doctor visits ($2), prescriptions ($1 or $3) or dental services ($3). Copay amounts are the same as the current Medicaid program. There are no copay requirements for preventive services or emergency services. Copays can be waived for services that allow enrollees to better manage chronic diseases or prevent complications.

(Note: Calculation of the monthly copay amount starting in the seventh month of participation will be based on usage over the prior six months.)

Individuals with incomes between 100% ($11,770 for an individual, $24,250 for a family of four) and 133% of the federal poverty level are required to make an income-based contribution to a MI Health Account. This amount will be up to 2% of annual family income, and must be contributed on a monthly basis beginning the seventh month of enrollment. Contributions are not required during the first six months of enrollment. Contributions can be made by the enrollee, by an employer, charitable organization, family member or other entity on the enrollee’s behalf.

Both the copay amounts and the 2% contributions can be reduced with “healthy behaviors,” which include completing an annual health risk assessment and agreeing to address or maintain healthier behaviors, such as weight loss, smoking cessation, obtaining immunizations, follow-up and managing chronic diseases. Together the cost-sharing cannot exceed 5% of family income.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN REQUIRED PAYMENTS ARE NOT MADE?

The plan approved by the federal government specifies that no enrollee will be terminated from the program for failure to pay copays or contributions into the MI Health Account. However, those who do not make required payments could lose their “healthy behavior” reductions, or be referred to the Michigan Department of Treasury for collection from tax refunds.

HOW WILL PAYMENTS BE MADE?

Required copays and contributions are detailed on the MI Health Account statement and can be paid by U.S. mail or through the online payment system. Copays will not be made at the time a service is provided; they will be paid monthly based on the prior six months’ service usage.

WHAT IS THE ENROLLMENT PROCESS?

A streamlined application and eligibility process, using the new tax-related income methodology and no asset test, is used. Applications are available online, by phone or in-person.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good news: The ACA is working as intended

It has been said many times before, but bears repeating—the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is doing what it was designed to do. The ACA has succeeded in providing quality healthcare coverage and reducing the number of uninsured, and with its consumer protections, fewer individuals are experiencing trouble paying medical bills. According to a recent Gallup Poll, only Texas maintains an uninsured rate greater than 20% of its residents, no state has reported a statistically significant increase since 2013, and seven states through the first half of 2015 have uninsured rates that are at or below 5%. (more…)

WILS Radio: Interview with League President Gilda Z. Jacobs on Michigan EITC

League President Gilda Z. Jacobs spoke with 1320 WILS AM’s Morning Wake Up with Dave Akerly about the importance of the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit. Aug. 19, 2015 — WILS

 

WILX: Supporters Stand Up for Earned Income Tax Credit

Don’t touch the “Earned Income Tax Credit.” That message today came from a group opposing a house bill that would eliminate the credit and put the money toward fixing the roads. The earned income tax credit helped 780-thousand low-income workers last year, according to the state. Aug. 19, 2015 — WILX

 

A two-generation strategy to reduce poverty and increase school success

The message was loud and clear at the State Board of Education meeting last week: family income and school success are inextricably linked, and Michigan’s school reform efforts will not succeed if the state doesn’t address that reality.

League President and CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs was invited by the State Board and new Superintendent Brian Whiston to address what it would take to make Michigan a top ten state for education. The Board is seeking input from education and business groups, advocacy organizations, teachers and parents—with the goal of developing a much-needed plan for action. (more…)

Alex Rossman

Alex Rossman

Alex Rossman joined the League staff in 2015 as communications director. He handles writing, editing and messaging, media relations and social media for the League to help ensure our work gets the attention it deserves. Prior to joining the League, Alex worked for Democratic Central Staff for the Michigan Senate for almost ten years, serving as the deputy communications director and, previously, as press secretary and communications advisor, helping draw attention to the important legislative issues facing our state. He previously worked in communications for the Michigan Chapter of The Nature Conservancy as well.

Alex holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration and sports management from Aquinas College, where he also ran cross country and track. Alex grew up in Lansing, and used to ride his bike through Old Town where he now works.

Contact: arossman@mlpp.org

 

 

Healthy Michigan Plan second waiver

Background

To implement the Healthy Michigan Plan, the state’s expansion and modification of the Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, the state law required the Department of Health and Human Services (then the Department of Community Health) to obtain two waivers (permission to implement programs in new ways usually through the use of a new policy or procedure not currently permitted) from the federal government. The first waiver was approved on December 30, 2013, and continues through December 31, 2018. Provisions of the first waiver:

  • Changed the way copays were calculated and collected, but not the amounts that otherwise would have been collected;
  • Established protocols and procedures for healthy behavior activities and incentives;
  • Required beneficiaries with incomes between 100% and 133% of the federal poverty level (FPL) to contribute 2% of family income to help pay for services, with an opportunity to reduce the payment, based on “healthy behaviors”;
  • Guaranteed that no one would lose eligibility for failure to pay copays or the income-based payment but that consequences for nonpayment would be established.

Second Waiver Content

The second waiver is expected to be more difficult to obtain as it is not clear if there is a federal waiver option that meets the requirements of the state law and does not violate federal law or regulation. The state law specifies that enrollees who have been covered by the Healthy Michigan Plan for 48 cumulative months and have incomes between 100% and 133% FPL must choose to:

  • Remain in the Healthy Michigan Plan with higher cost-sharing—increased from the current 5% to 7% of family income (the current federal maximum is 5%)—with the income-based payment increasing from 2% to 3.5%, again with the opportunity to reduce through “healthy behaviors,” or
  • Enroll in coverage through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace and receive federal premium subsidies and cost-sharing reductions. These individuals may lose the additional services (e.g., dental, nonemergency transportation, enhanced mental health benefit) provided by the Healthy Michigan Plan that are not included in Marketplace insurance plans.

Potential Number of Beneficiaries Impacted by Second Waiver

  • The Healthy Michigan Plan law specifies individuals who have been covered by the plan for 48 cumulative months and have incomes between 100% and 133% FPL are impacted by the second waiver, but the law does not specify if the enrollee must have had income over 100% FPL for each of the 48 months.
  • On a monthly basis, about 15% to 18% of the enrollees have incomes over 100% FPL and could potentially be impacted by the second waiver. The remaining 82% to 85% of enrollees in the Healthy Michigan Plan would not be impacted but would lose their coverage if the second waiver is not approved and the Michigan Legislature does not act to continue the program.
  • With enrollment hovering around 600,000 individuals, just over 100,000 have incomes over 100% FPL, while just under 500,000 individuals have incomes at or below 100% FPL.

 Actions to Date

  • A concept paper was submitted to the federal government on May 27, 2015.
  • Discussions have occurred and continue between federal officials and state policymakers.
  • A public hearing was held in June with public comments due to the state by July 31, 2015.
  • The second waiver request was formally submitted to the federal government on September 1, 2015.

Impacts of Waiver Inaction or Rejection

  • The current state law calls for the Healthy Michigan Plan to end on April 30, 2016, and about 600,000 Michigan residents would lose their healthcare coverage even though the waiver provisions apply only to those with incomes between 100% and 133% FPL.
    • Letters must be sent to ALL beneficiaries by January 31, 2016, notifying them the program will end on April 30, 2016.
  • The first beneficiary cannot reach 48 months of enrollment until April 2018, 48 months after the implementation of the Healthy Michigan Plan, but without approval of the second waiver, the program would have been terminated two full years before the first beneficiary could have met the criteria in the second waiver.

Options to Continue the Healthy Michigan Plan Without an Approved Second Waiver

  • The Legislature could modify the Healthy Michigan Plan law to meet the conditions required by federal law and regulation.
    • Amending the law would have to be completed quickly (in as short a time as one month, and prior to January 31, 2016) to ensure enrollees are not notified the program is ending and create chaos.
  • The Legislature could modify the Healthy Michigan Plan law and simply strike the requirement of the second waiver and all related provisions.

 

Michigan EITC coalition encourages lawmakers to avoid including credit in road funding debate

For Immediate Releasee
August 8, 2015

Contacts: David Waymire, Martin Waymire
(517) 485-6600
dwaymire@martinwaymire.com

 

State EITC helps nearly 800,000 low income, working Michigan households, nearly 1 million children

Lansing, MI: A coalition of organizations supporting the state Earned Income Tax Credit today urged lawmakers to maintain support for the state EITC as a popular key tool for fighting poverty, particularly among children.

Some lawmakers have suggested using $117 million that now is used for the EITC to pay for road projects in future years. “Academic research and survey data shows that is a very bad idea,” said Gilda Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “We know that a robust state EITC is a critical part of helping working families move up and out of poverty. We also know from recent polling that nearly 70 percent of Michigan voters oppose the idea of cutting the EITC and using it for roads.”

Tom Hickson, vice president of public policy for the Michigan Catholic Conference, said his organization has been working to inform lawmakers of the value of the EITC. “We are among the many religious organizations who have said we need to have compassionate, effective policies to attack poverty. The state EITC is one of them,” Hickson said. “It’s a hand up that only goes to low-income families with income, and rewards hard work.”

Matt Gillard, president and CEO of Michigan’s Children, noted that nearly 1 million children are in families that benefit from the EITC. “Childhood poverty is an increasingly difficult issue in our state. If we want to ensure our youngest and most vulnerable population gets a good start in life, the EITC is an effective tool with a proven track record of helping children escape poverty,” Gillard said.

Ross Yednock, program director with the Michigan Economic Impact Coalition at Community Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM), noted that some lawmakers have suggested the $143 average benefit from the EITC is too small to make a difference. “We know that is a car payment for many EITC recipients; it pays for 50 gallons of gas, or helps make a utility or property tax payment. It’s important to those families in many ways,” Yednock said.

Nancy Lindman, director of public policy and partnerships, Michigan Association of United Ways, said that lawmakers should realize the EITC is important to residents and businesses across Michigan. “From Detroit to Crawford County, many working families find the EITC a valuable bump in income at tax time  and they spend their money close to home, helping local businesses. We talk to small businesses who recognize the value of the EITC when they see additional economic activity during income tax refund season.”

More than 30 groups from across the state have signed on to support the state EITC and urge its continued support, including Focus: HOPE, Michigan Disability Rights Coalition, Genesee County Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill Industries of West Michigan and many United Ways across the state.

For more information visit www.saveeitc.com.

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