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Healthy Michigan Waiver: Calls to Lessen the Blow

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Starting in 2020, 650,000 Healthy Michigan beneficiaries will be subject to new work requirements. (click/Morguefile)
Starting in 2020, 650,000 Healthy Michigan beneficiaries will be subject to new work requirements. (click/Morguefile)
 By Mary KuhlmanContact
January 14, 2019

LANSING, Mich. – Policy groups are hopeful state lawmakers will learn from Arkansas' mistakes as work requirements for the Healthy Michigan Plan are implemented.

A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that nearly 17,000 Medicaid beneficiaries in Arkansas already have lost coverage since the state implemented its work requirements six months ago.

Jennifer Wagner, a senior policy analyst with the center, explains that's more than 20 percent of people subject to the new policy.

"It exceeds the 15 percent coverage loss Kentucky projected would result from its waiver by the fifth year,” she points out. “And the 6 to 17 percent coverage loss Kaiser Family Foundation forecasted could have resulted from a nationwide implementation of work requirements. "

Wagner says working people and those who should be exempt are among those losing coverage due to new paperwork requirements and red tape.

In 2020, more than 650,000 Michiganders will have to comply with the requirements, and there are calls to ensure the necessary systems are in place to lessen the blow for beneficiaries.

Emily Schwarzkopf, a senior policy analyst for the Michigan League for Public Policy, contends Healthy Michigan enrollees need help accessing services such as child care and transportation so they can meet work requirements.

She says Michigan also must avoid the problems experienced in Arkansas with communications and complicated computer systems for reporting work activity.

"Just like in Arkansas, we have a lot of rural areas who also have difficulty with people having access to Internet services, so really hoping the department makes a ‘no wrong door’ that people can call and report their hours and make it really accessible," Schwarzkopf states.

Besides concerns people will have to jump through hoops to meet new work requirements, Schwarzkopf says enrollees of the Healthy Michigan Plan will also be facing premium hikes.

"Obviously, 5 percent can be a big portion of anyone's budget,” she states. “Especially when talking about people with low income, that that could be the difference between trying to feed your family or having access to health coverage."

The Michigan League for Public Policy is encouraging state leaders to make the work requirements process as easy to comply with as possible, and to ensure Healthy Michigan Plan enrollees are well aware of these new requirements.

Disclosure: Michigan League for Public Policy/KIDS COUNT contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Children's Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families, Poverty Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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