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Michigan Bill Would Require Medicaid Qualifiers To Work 29 Hours Per Week

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Michigan could soon require certain people to work for their Medicaid benefits. A bill passed a state Senate panel Wednesday.

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) said the bill will likely get a full Senate vote next week.  

“I think there’s a lot of merit there,” he said. “Folks that are able-bodied, I think this will help them become more self-sufficient. I think this is a good idea.”

The bill would require able-bodied people to work an average of 29 hours per week.

There are exceptions and certain people who qualify for waivers – including for people with disabilities, their caretakers, and people who are pregnant.

But critics say these exemptions still leave out other people who can’t work. They say it will cost the state too much to implement and leave too many people without health insurance. People like Claire Maitre.

Maitre is 62-years-old and lives in Scio Township. She takes care of her three and seven-year-old grandsons. She’s currently on Medicaid, but she wouldn’t qualify if the bill passes as is.

“I’ve been a grateful Medicaid recipient for these last few years,” she said. “If you were to ask me to get a paid job and leave off caring for my grandsons and doing my volunteer work, I would choose to go without health insurance.”

Able-bodied adults would have to complete 29 hours per week of work or job training to qualify for Medicaid under a bill that cleared a Michigan legislative committee Wednesday, months after the Trump administration announced it would permit such requirements.

The Republican-led Michigan Competitiveness Committee moved the measure to the full state Senate on a 4-1 party-line vote.

"It's not about saving money for the state. It's about securing funds for those who really need it," said the sponsor, Sen. Mike Shirkey, a Clarklake Republican who estimated his legislation might affect 300,000 of the state's 2.3 million Medicaid recipients. Enrollment and spending on the federal-state health insurance program for low-income residents have soared under an expansion authorized by the Obama-era health law.

There would be an exemption from the work requirement for caretakers, pregnant women, full-time students, those with disabilities and others. The measure was supported by business and conservative groups and opposed by health providers, organized labor and others.

"I fundamentally believe that the right to health care should be protected for all our citizens. That right should not be predicated on the number of hours they work," said Democratic Sen. Rebekah Warren, of Ann Arbor.

Tanya Baker, a spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Rick Snyder — a strong advocate of an expansion program that has provided Medicaid to more than 600,000 additional adults — said his office was continuing to work with Shirkey "in a positive and collaborative way. The latest draft is still under review, but things are certainly moving forward and we're grateful for the senator's willingness to work with us."

The Kaiser Family Foundation says three states — Arkansas, Indiana and Kentucky— have Medicaid work requirements, while seven others have requests pending before the federal government.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County.
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