Advance Notice: Briefs

Updated: Whitmer sends special message to Legislature: Delay Medicaid work requirements, GOP says no

By: - December 3, 2019 11:37 am

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at a Center for American Progress forum in Washington | Robin Bravender

Updated, 11:59 a.m. 12/3/19 with comments from Republicans

In light of a new lawsuit, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer sent a special message on Tuesday to legislative leadership asking them to hit the pause button on Medicaid work requirements set to kick in on Jan. 1.

“Every Michigander deserves access to quality, affordable health care, and I’m working to ensure we take steps toward reaching that goal,” said Whitmer. “Health care for hundreds of thousands of Michiganders is on the line here, and we can’t rush this process while the courts decide on Medicaid work requirements. The legislature should do the right thing here and protect Michigan taxpayers while the courts determine legality. Then, we must work together to ensure affordable coverage for Michiganders everywhere.”

Speaker Lee Chatfield and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, May 24, 2019 | Nick Manes

Shortly after Whitmer released the letter, state House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Levering) issued a statement rejecting the governor’s request, arguing that work requirements are a positive for those getting health care through Medicaid.*

“Getting a job is the best way to become self-sufficient for a lifetime and escape poverty,” the Republicans said. “Pausing the program takes that away and pushes people deeper into dependency, unhealthy behaviors and long-term poverty. All Michigan families deserve a path and a plan toward a better future.”*

Shirkey talks divided government, touts Medicaid work rules

As the Advance reported, four Michiganders last month sued the President Trump administration over the requirements. Beneficiaries must report 80 hours of work to the DHHS each month or risk losing their medical coverage. The state has been preparing recipients for the changes.

Whitmer said the GOP law signed last year by now-former Gov. Rick Snyder “threatens health coverage for approximately 200,000 individuals who receive it through the Healthy Michigan Plan,” which expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

She pointed out that similar lawsuits in Arkansas, Kentucky and New Hampshire resulted in a court issuing an injunction halting work requirements. Republican governors in Indiana and Arizona voluntarily put work requirements implementation on hold, Whitmer noted.

Study: Medicaid work requirements failed to increase employment rate

The governor made a fiscal appeal to lawmakers, noting that Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has already spent $28 million in preparing for work requirements and the state is on track to spend $40 million more in fiscal year 2020. Whitmer said that is “the equivalent of assisting 14,000 additional children through the Child Care and Development program.” Whitmer said if the courts block these requirements, the “state risks wasting money and creating confusion for thousands of Michigan families.”

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 21-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 4,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 70 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.