MACKINAC ISLAND — Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday said a bill to impose work requirements on Michigan Medicaid recipients won’t include a controversial provision to exempt people who live in high-unemployment counties, but not cities.
Snyder told reporters at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference on Mackinac Island that he hasn’t yet struck a final compromise with bill sponsor Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, on creating Medicaid work rules.
But the unemployment exemption was a key obstacle in negotiations, in large part because of public backlash over the exemption’s potential racial and political implications.
“The unemployment requirement has been taken out,” Snyder said.
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Senate Bill 897, which cleared the Senate and is pending in a House committee, would have allowed Medicaid recipients who live in counties with at least 8.5 percent unemployment to count an active job search toward the work requirement.
As written, though, the exemption wouldn’t apply to Medicaid beneficiaries who live in cities with similar jobless rates, including Detroit and Flint, because their surrounding counties have unemployment rates below 8.5 percent.
That would have meant that predominantly white, rural northern Michigan counties, which are represented by Republicans, would have been exempted, while residents of predominantly black cities would have had to work to receive Medicaid.
“I don’t think it was intended to do that,” Snyder said. “When people looked at it, there were concerns. So take it out.”
Snyder also told reporters that the bill’s requirement for Medicaid recipients to work at least 29 hours per week has been scaled back to 20 hours, which is similar to existing work requirements for food assistance recipients.
“That’s a good improvement,” Snyder said. “If we provide resources, access, ways for them to work and they elect not to work, well, it raises a fair question. But there are a lot of people out there that are permanent part-time, that don’t have a choice. So I didn’t want to create an environment (that) just because some employers wouldn’t give somebody 30 hours to say they should get dropped out of the (Medicaid) program.”
Republican House Speaker Tom Leonard on Thursday told Bridge he had heard a deal is close on the Medicaid work bill.
The House has been waiting for Snyder and Shirkey to reach a compromise before taking up the bill.
It was not clear when a revised version might be presented; Snyder said negotiations continue on other items.
Shirkey on Thursday told Bridge that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services convinced him that it would be too costly and complex to administer an unemployment exemption by county each month, to the tune of "multiple tens of millions" of dollars per year.