By: - April 7, 2021 10:47 am

President Joe Biden signs one of the 17 Executive Orders he signed on Inauguration Day Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in the Oval Office of the White House. | Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz via Flickr Public Domain

Updated with comments from Whitmer and Gilchrist, 2:43 p.m., 4/7/21

President Joe Biden rescinded Michigan’s Medicaid work requirements this week, reversing restrictions that had been approved by former President Donald Trump in 2019.

The waiver, which had taken effect on Jan. 1, 2020, but was blocked by a federal judge two months later, had conditioned Medicaid coverage upon work requirements. The law passed by the GOP-led Legislature was signed by former Gov. Rick Snyder, but was opposed by current Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Democrats and groups like the Michigan League for Public Policy.

Nine other states besides Michigan had also been granted waivers by the Trump administration. Michigan’s was set to expire at the end of 2023.

The Biden administration cited challenges for residents during the COVID-19 pandemic as reason to drop the work requirements.

In a letter to the state on Tuesday, Elizabeth Richter, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, also wrote that the administration has “serious concerns” about implementing policies that “create a risk of substantial loss of health care coverage.”

“Within the short span of the policy’s implementation, 80,000 beneficiaries, or about 1 in 3 of those subject to the community engagement requirement, were at risk of loss of coverage for failing to report,” Richter said.

The legislation establishing work requirements for Medicaid coverage was originally signed by Republican former Gov. Rick Snyder in early 2018.

“The Biden Administration’s decision to uphold crucial access to health care is life-changing news for the tens of thousands of Michiganders who were in danger of losing their health coverage if the requirements were implemented,” Whitmer said in a statement Wednesday.

“No one deserves to be kicked off their health insurance when they need it most, especially in the midst of a global pandemic and historic recession. As governor, I’m grateful to have a partner in the White House with the same goal of improving health care access for Michiganders,” Whitmer said.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist noted that the Biden administration’s move to rescind the restrictions will especially help Michigan’s most vulnerable residents during COVID-19 “who are disproportionately Black, people of color, and women.”*

A White House spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.