Senate committee passes unnecessary attack on healthcare for struggling Michigan residents: Medicaid work requirements stand to be complicated, costly and illegal

For Immediate Release
April 18, 2018

Contact:
Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517-487-5436

Medicaid work requirements stand to be complicated, costly and illegal

LANSING—The Michigan League for Public Policy issued the following statement on the Senate Michigan Competitiveness Committee’s party-line passage today of Senate Bill 897 to implement work requirements for Michigan’s Medicaid enrollees. The statement can be attributed to Michigan League for Public Policy President and CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs, who also testified in opposition to the bill on March 21.

“After President Donald Trump and the Centers on Medicaid and Medicare Services opened the door on Medicaid work requirements, some Michigan lawmakers are unfortunately scrambling to run through it. In doing so, legislators are blatantly violating the intent of Medicaid to provide healthcare for people with low incomes, an intent that has been upheld for more than 50 years, and ignoring the fact that most of Michigan’s Medicaid population is already working. Those that aren’t working are largely students, caretakers, seniors, people with disabilities or other people that are unable to work. The only thing about this bill that makes Michigan ‘competitive’ is that it’s racing other states to the courtroom and leaving residents in need behind.

“This effort needs less political rhetoric and more data and logic. Evidence shows that work requirements rarely lead to long-term employment—especially not employment that would raise someone out of poverty. In moving forward on this bill today, Republican lawmakers ignored data that work requirements are harmful to recipients and our state departments.

“And they ignored the people that they were sent to Lansing to represent. They disregarded the large group of advocates voicing strong opposition and what this would really mean to students, cancer patients and others struggling with illness, and our economy. They dismissed the hundreds of concerned residents that have reached out to their legislators in the last month to oppose this bill. And they wrote off all of the people who have contacted our office to express their fears about this bill and how it will turn their lives upside down. These are people who have Medicaid for a variety of reasons, from having had tragic accidents that have left them homebound to having temporarily low incomes due to unexpected life changes. These are real Michiganders who are scared of losing access to the healthcare they so badly need. They’re struggling every day, yet some lawmakers want to make that struggle even more difficult.

“By passing work requirements that will likely require burdensome paperwork for many Michigan Medicaid recipients, lawmakers are not only placing complicated ‘big government’ bureaucracy on Medicaid enrollees, but on small business owners, doctors and medical professionals and state caseworkers as well. And they are disregarding the problems already being encountered by other states like Kentucky, including outrageous costs to state and federal government and significant legal challenges. The League is all for helping people find and keep jobs, but Medicaid is keeping people healthy and able to work, not enabling residents to avoid it. This bill shouldn’t have even passed out of committee, but now that it has, it’s up to the Senate leadership and members to stand up for their constituents and stop it.”

The League recently issued a report, Medicaid work requirements: Why making people work doesn’t work, that outlined a number of issues with proposed Medicaid work requirements and sought to stop the flawed plan before it started. As the bill moves forward, these major concerns remain:

  • Exemptions will be hard to get with narrow definitions and difficulty obtaining medical records and other documents.
  • Lost healthcare coverage and burdensome bureaucracy for recipients, including complex paperwork for exemptions and coverage “lockouts” for noncompliance.
  • Legality. In Kentucky, a lawsuit has already been filed in response to the recent approval of the Kentucky Medicaid waiver to enforce work requirements (Stewart v. Azar).
  • High cost. Cost estimates for Medicaid work requirements in Kentucky are nearly $187 million for the first six months. In Tennessee, they are expected to cost $18.7 million a year. While federal funding is expected to largely cover the initial costs, states will eventually have to foot the bill, and that’s money that will be taken away from what Michiganders really need: good schools, safer roads, and better job training.
  • Savings at expense of lost coverage. Kentucky expects the implementation of work requirements and other reforms will save the state over $2 billion dollars, but much of that will likely come from people losing their coverage.

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.