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.
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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.”
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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.”