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Medicaid Work Requirements: More Harm than Good for MI?

Researchers say 150,000 Michiganders could lose Medicaid health coverage should the state pass work-requirement legislation. (Fransisco Osorio/Flickr)
Researchers say 150,000 Michiganders could lose Medicaid health coverage should the state pass work-requirement legislation. (Fransisco Osorio/Flickr)
May 2, 2018

LANSING, Mich. - A Michigan House committee is expected to discuss a proposal today to impose a work requirement on Medicaid recipients, but some researchers say the legislation would do more harm than good.

Senate Bill 897 would impose a work requirement of 29 hours per week for able-bodied adults enrolled in the state's Medicaid program and kick people off coverage if they fail to meet the requirement within a month.

Gilda Jacobs, president and chief executive of the Michigan League for Public Policy, is among those troubled by the fast-moving bill.

"Lawmakers are disregarding significant evidence that work requirements are unnecessary and won't work," she said. "Most Medicaid recipients who can work are already working, and Michiganders enrolled in Healthy Michigan are doing better at work and are able to find work because they have health care."

Supporters of the work requirements have argued that they'll reduce costs and help boost employment. The Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency has estimated that a work requirement will cost the state nearly $30 million a year to administer.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has suggested that nearly 150,000 Michiganders could lose coverage for not meeting the requirement. While the proposal exempts people with certain medical conditions, senior health policy analyst Jesse Cross-Call at the Center noted that some could still lose their coverage.

"This could occur because they don't meet the criteria for limited exemptions, they don't understand that they qualify for an exception, or they struggle to provide the documentation proving that they do," he said.

Aviva Aron-Dine, the Center's vice president for health policy, said most of those losing coverage would be workers in low-paying positions with volatile hours and little flexibility.

"For people who are demonstrably trying to work, there's even less reason to think that threatening to take away their Medicaid and lock them out of health coverage for a year will somehow increase their work effort," she said. "What it will do is worsen their health."

Researcher Marianne Udow-Phillips, executive director of the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation at the University of Michigan, said Medicaid coverage keeps people healthy enough to stay in the workforce and helps reduce the cost of uncompensated care. She added that there are other significant economic effects.

"Medicaid expansion has been estimated to have added 30,000 new jobs annually," she said, "and has increased personal spending power by $2.3 billion, and has generated $150 billion annually in tax revenue for the state."

The text of Senate Bill 897 is online at legislature.mi.gov.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI