Should Medicaid Recipients Be Required To Work To Receive Benefits?

The state Senate has approved a bill that would require able-bodied people to complete an average of 29 hours of work, job training, or education each week.

Jake Neher/WDET

In 2014, Michigan became the largest state with a Republican-dominated state government to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Now, many of the same Republicans in Lansing who helped create the Healthy Michigan program are working to require Medicaid recipients to work for their benefits.

The legislation cleared the state Senate last week. It would require able-bodied people to complete an average of 29 hours of work, job training, or education each week to get Medicaid health coverage.

There are some exceptions, including for disability, pregnancy and age. Also, some people could qualify for a waiver — such as a parent with kids under six-years-old and caretakers for someone with a disability.

But critics say this legislation follows along with the thinking that poverty carries with it a stigma of laziness and grifting, and that the poor are a burden on our government and economy.

Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson speaks with the bill’s sponsor and a social welfare advocate about the legislation. But first, Henderson speaks with Cheyna Roth, state Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.

Roth says the bill still needs to be considered by the state House, where Speaker Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt) says he supports the bill “in principle,” but has yet to review the bill. 

“Then it would go on to the governor’s desk, if it does indeed pass the House of Representatives,” says Roth.

“It would go to the governor’s desk, where it could very likely hit a road block and potentially a veto signature.”

Henderson also speaks with bill sponsor state Sen. Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) about why he thinks the legislation is necessary.

“If the savings (in the state budget created by Healthy Michigan) don’t equal or exceed the cost, then the program stops,” says Shirkey.

“And that is another reason why this is important because if we don’t change the trajectory of growth in Healthy Michigan, it’ll force itself to be discontinued. And I don’t want that to happen. I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.”

Gilda Jacobs is the executive director of the Michigan League for Public Policy, which advocates for policies meant to lift people out of poverty in Michigan. She tells Henderson that the proposal is problematic because it assumes people who aren’t working are doing so by choice. She says it doesn’t take into account specific life circumstances, such as a person’s ability to travel.

“What it is is punitive,” says Jacobs. “It takes away health coverage. And there’s all sorts of data that support the fact that, if you are not healthy, you have a worse chance at succeeding at a job or at getting a job.”

Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.


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