Where Michigan governor candidates stand on Medicaid work requirements

2018 Michigan governor candidates, Republican and Democrat

Update: Have an opinion on Michigan’s Medicaid work rules? Weigh in quickly.
August 2018 update: Gretchen Whitmer wins Democratic primary for Michigan governor
August 2018 update: Bill Schuette wins Republican nod for Michigan governor

This month, the Michigan Senate passed legislation that would impose work requirements on able-bodied Medicaid recipients. Exemptions would be granted for people with specific circumstances, including caregivers of young children and people with some medical conditions.

Experts say it’s difficult to determine the impact if the bill becomes law because states had not been allowed to adopt Medicaid work requirements until the Trump administration created a waiver for states to do so earlier this year. That leaves little data from other states to suggest how this program might work. State fiscal analysts also say they can’t accurately estimate the costs, or potential savings, of such a program.

Related: Where Michigan governor candidates stand on fixing the roads
Related: Will Michigan’s Medicaid work bill fill jobs or save money? No one knows
Opinion: Beware of unintended consequences of Michigan Medicaid work demand 
Related: See more Michigan 'Where they stand' stories on guns, the economy, lead pipes

Bridge asked seven candidates for Michigan governor their position on work requirements for Medicaid recipients. (Spoiler alert: Republicans favor the bill, Democrats oppose it.) Below are their responses.


Lt. Gov. Brian Calley

Calley supports the legislation, campaign spokesman Mike Schrimpf told Bridge via email, breaking with the governor.

“The proposal fits in with his overall vision,” Schrimpf said, referring to   Calley’s campaign website, which calls for boosting workforce participation by “transforming our social service system into a springboard to employment.”

Calley’s platform includes establishing “an expectation of work for those on assistance — both internships and community service for skill development and resume building” and tailoring support services to individual needs to remove barriers to employment.

State Sen. Patrick Colbeck

“Stipulating a Medicaid work requirement for able-bodied recipients of government assistance is a matter of fairness,” Colbeck said via email sent by campaign spokeswoman AnneMarie Schieber Dykstra. “After all, citizens who pay for this assistance had to work to earn the money needed to pay the taxes that fund health care for Medicaid enrollees at the same time they are paying for their own health care.

Dr. Jim Hines

“I do support work requirements, job training or work related education for able-bodied adults receiving government assistance. That includes those receiving Medicaid,” Hines said via email. “The goal of government assistance should be to help individuals temporarily until they are able to enter or return to the workforce.

“We need to make changes to the current Medicaid program in Michigan in order to sustain it. We also need to make sure that we remove the disincentives to work in any of our government assistance program.”

Attorney General Bill Schuette

Schuette supports the bill introduced by state Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake.

“Michigan has a responsibility to reevaluate and ensure that taxpayer-funded programs are not only efficient but that they are ensuring the best outcomes,” Schuette said in an emailed statement. “Welfare programs must always be judged on their ability to give a hand up to citizens in need of help and by their ability to identify and eliminate hurdles to helping able-bodied citizens find a place in our workforce. This is especially vital at a time in which Michigan has thousands of unfilled jobs, combined with a shrinking workforce that is limiting our growth and ability to compete with the fastest-growing states.

“If this common-sense reform (is) not implemented this year, as governor I will work toward its passage in 2019.”

Related Michigan health care, safety net stories


Abdul El-Sayed, former Detroit health director

“This bill is a prime example of the wrongheaded ideology too many GOP lawmakers are trying to write into Michigan law,” El-Sayed said in an email.

“I’m a doctor, and I know firsthand that many of our Medicaid recipients cannot work as a function of their illness or disability,” his statement said. “This is just another boldfaced effort to strip Medicaid recipients of access to healthcare. This will make it harder for low-income people, families and children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with disabilities to get basic access to the healthcare they need. It is heartless and misguided.

“We have a responsibility, as Michiganders, to care for the most vulnerable among us, and that means protecting the right to healthcare. That is why I believe in universal healthcare through a Medicare-for-all style single-payer system for Michigan. This will provide every Michigander healthcare, bring down the cost of prescription drugs, and reduce auto insurance costs — and it’s just what the doctor ordered for our state.”

Shri Thanedar, Ann Arbor businessman

“Republicans in the Michigan Senate have chosen once again to use their power in the majority to attack working poor people in this state,” Thanedar said via email.

“Work requirements are wrong and a terrible approach to public policy. “They accomplish nothing in our quest as Democrats to help working people find success in Michigan’s economy. By taking this vote, Republicans are only trying to penalize working people who only want to live, work, and raise a family. As I’ve said time and again in this campaign, access to healthcare should be a right, not a privilege.

“I do not, and will never, support work requirements. It’s time for a change — we must vote Republicans out of office who choose to support these inhuman measures to strip Medicaid recipients of their dignity.”

Gretchen Whitmer, former state Senate Minority Leader

“The health of Michiganders and Michigan’s economy is paramount,” Whitmer said via email. “I worked across the aisle to make Healthy Michigan a reality and because of our bipartisan effort, 680,000 more people have coverage today.

Senate Bill 897 (Shirkey’s bill) simply takes coverage away from people, which will hurt the workforce and cost the state federal dollars. As governor, I will fight to ensure every Michigander has access to quality, affordable health care by strengthening and expanding Healthy Michigan, not taking it away from people.”

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John Anthony La...
Mon, 04/30/2018 - 8:40am

Where are the answers from the rest of the candidates? Why can't you consistently include everyone?

Sun, 08/05/2018 - 11:35pm

Because all the candidates don't respond.

Rich B.
Mon, 04/30/2018 - 8:45am

While I have generally supported some type of work/training/public service requirement for adults receiving cash benefits, I am concerned that this is a different situation. Individuals who are eligible for Medicaid do not get a cash benefit, the beneficiary is the doctor or hospital that provides care if they are ill or injured. Work is a disincentive for some recipients because it will increase their income and cause them to lose the medicaid assistance, while not necessarily providing enough income to pay for health care. I believe that if we are going to add a work requirement, we should include a provision that allows the recipient to stay on Medicaid for some period of time until there is evidence that they have a stable employment situation.

I appreciate several of the candidates desire to be advocates for those of us who pay taxes, but if we remove lower income individuals from medicaid, we still pay for their health services when they can't, just in the form of higher medical bills and health insurance premiums. Medicaid is not just for the recipients, it is for health care providers and hospitals that care for low income individuals.

Don S
Mon, 04/30/2018 - 11:25am

All the more reason not to vote for Democrats. They are out of touch with working people, and, as usual, are more interested in welfare queens.
At least all the Republicans seem to support this bill.
However, my choice is Senator Patrick Colbeck, who spoke out against the Medicaid expansion by Snyder when it was first implemented. Which to the best of my knowledge, none of other Republicans running, did.

Kathi Geukes
Sat, 05/05/2018 - 4:39pm

Just the fact that you think Rethugs have the "right" answers tells us all we need to know about you.....voted for tRump eh?? It's time to give this state back to the people who actually care about the people who live in it....and that's not any Rethug!!!!!

Robert Townsend
Sun, 05/06/2018 - 1:09pm

What makes you think they are not already working, but still qualify for public assistance? How about instead of enacting feel good legislation for those that like to say they are superior to their neighbors, we actually do something about the root problem here? No one that works full time should qualify for public assistance, especially in light their employers (like the Walton Family) are billionaires. We need a living minimum wage.

Kathi Geukes
Sun, 06/10/2018 - 2:55pm


Jacob Smigelski
Tue, 05/01/2018 - 5:06pm

There are many that must be taken care of, there are many abled bodied that can at least work. Many people out there know of one or two.

A constituent
Wed, 05/02/2018 - 7:44am

When did it become more dignified to NOT work/earn things and instead just be awarded them based just on existing?? That's insulting to those of us who do and scrape by. If you can read a book to a kid, pick up trash in your community, do child care for others, or house work.... Then by all means you should help while getting back on your feet. That's only right and fair in the long run.

Sun, 08/05/2018 - 11:37pm

Many families are working more than one job and they are still struggling to make ends meet and that is why they are receiving Medicaid.

Kathy H.
Mon, 08/06/2018 - 4:10am

The discussion is about access to healthcare—sick people who need medical attention often cannot work, such as those with severe arthritis, or those recovering from joint replacements or cancer. Where are all of these able-bodied collectors of Medicaid? If they can work, I’m sure they do. The working poor qualify for food assistance, too. There are guidelines that must be met.

Kathy H.
Mon, 08/06/2018 - 4:10am

The discussion is about access to healthcare—sick people who need medical attention often cannot work, such as those with severe arthritis, or those recovering from joint replacements or cancer. Where are all of these able-bodied collectors of Medicaid? If they can work, I’m sure they do. The working poor qualify for food assistance, too. There are guidelines that must be met.

Kevin Grand
Sat, 05/05/2018 - 2:55pm

Since Brian Calley isn't even a candidate for Michigan Governor, why is he included?


I can see why the Greens are not included, we'll find out about their candidate later today.

But why has The Bridge snubbed the Libertarians or Natural Law?

How can you claim to inform readers when you deliberately withhold informing readers about who will be on the ballot?

Robert Townsend
Sun, 05/06/2018 - 1:05pm

The vast majority of people on medicaid already work if able. The main problem with this is that people working full time should not make so little they qualify for public assistance, while the Waltons of the world make billions.

Bob Townsend candidate for the 97th District, Michigan House