Gov. Rick Snyder said Thursday that he has conceptually agreed on legislation to impose work, education or training requirements on Medicaid recipients, saying details are being worked out but there has been a general “meeting of the minds” with the bill’s sponsor.
The Republican governor, who opposed the measure as it passed the GOP-controlled Senate, said the concept of having people work is a “great one. I want to encourage everyone to work. The real concern and question I had is I didn’t want to put people in a position by having the terms be so tough that there are people who might not have the opportunity to succeed.”
He confirmed that the proposed 29-hour-a week workforce engagement requirement for able-bodied adults is being lowered to 20 hours. That is in line with the three states that have enacted Medicaid work laws and with Michigan’s work requirement for food assistance beneficiaries.
Snyder also confirmed the elimination of a controversial provision that would have let Medicaid recipients living in counties with 8.5 percent or higher unemployment meet the requirement by actively looking for work unless the jobless rate dropped below 5 percent. Critics say it would have helped white residents in rural areas but disproportionately hurt beneficiaries in largely black cities such as Detroit and Flint, where the jobless rate is high but the countywide rate is low.
“Conceptually, I think we’re basically there on how to do it, but it’s a complicated topic,” Snyder told The Associated Press in an interview at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference. He said a “narrow set of” details is being ironed out, “but in terms of a general kind of meeting of the minds, I think we’re in a pretty good place.”
The Senate-passed bill pending in the Republican-led House would require an average of 29 hours a week of qualifying work activities to be eligible for taxpayer-funded health insurance — employment, education, job training, vocational training, an internship or participation in substance abuse treatment. Those deemed noncompliant during a month would be issued a warning and would have 30 days to become compliant or would be barred from Medicaid for a year.
Snyder said 29 hours “was a problem from my perspective because there are good hard-working people that are sort of permanent part-time, where employers really aren’t offering them the opportunity to work more. … So it’s really striking that balance.”
Of the 2.5 million Michigan residents on Medicaid, roughly 1 million able-bodied, nonelderly adults could be affected, including 700,000 who would be ineligible for exemptions from the requirements.
GOP House Speaker Tom Leonard of DeWitt said Thursday that he intends for the House to pass the legislation in June before lawmakers adjourn for the summer. He said he thinks expansion of Medicaid to low-income adults in 2014 is “becoming unsustainable. We were told that ultimately the ceiling on this program would be 470,000 (enrollees.) Now we’re above 650,000.”
Leonard also said the state is covering an increasing share of the cost to expand Medicaid, which he called “a huge burden on our budget and to our taxpayers. Government assistance or government welfare ought to be a hand up not a handout.”
Democrats and advocates for the poor oppose the bill.
“This is just a way to make people’s health care go away,” said Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich of FLint. “It’s not about making sure people work because it if was, we’d put money toward day care, we’d put money toward transportation, we’d make sure the talent programs we’re talking about funding were already in place. They want to cut people off Medicaid.”
People who lose Medicaid, he said, would be forced to go to the emergency room — driving up hospitals’ uncompensated care costs that result in higher health premiums for consumers. Having the coverage, he said, ensures people have an easier time working.
Senate Bill 897: http://bit.ly/2IaDEdp