News Story

Sponsor Of Medicaid Work Requirements: They’re The ‘Right Thing To Do’

Able-bodied beneficiaries would have to get a job, get training, go to school or do community service

Republicans in the Michigan House and Senate have introduced bills requiring state health and welfare officials to ask permission from the federal government to impose certain training or work requirements as a condition of getting Medicaid health benefits.

These bills — House Bill 5317, House Bill 5590, and Senate Bill 897 — would amend the law authorizing Michigan’s acceptance of the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The Michigan Department of Community Health and Human Services would need the federal waivers to make the work and education requirements a condition of getting Medicaid health coverage from the state.

If the federal government grants the waivers, able-bodied individuals would have to meet specified requirements to get Medicaid. The requirements differ slightly in each bill, but they include spending at least 30 hours a week working, getting job training in an industry with “proven demand,” be pursuing an education, or performing a specified amount of community service.

The original bill authorizing the Obamacare Medicaid expansion also required the state to seek waivers allowing it to offer incentives to beneficiaries for adopting certain healthy behaviors.

According to the sponsor of one of the new bills, Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, when the Michigan Medicaid expansion bill was considered, some legislators tried to work with federal government to include requirements from beneficiaries. At that time, Shirkey chaired the House committee that reported the expansion bill to the full House.

In addition to imposing education and work requirements, Shirkey’s legislation would require all able-bodied Medicaid recipients to report changes in family income every three months. Medicaid is a means-tested program with income caps on eligibility.

Shirkey said that, for him, adding a training or work requirement to the state’s Medicaid policy is not ultimately about controlling the costs of one of the state’s largest expenses.

“The reason to do it is that because it’s the right thing to do,” Shirkey said. “I don’t know of a single business that isn’t looking for people to come to work. ... The best way to make more money is to have a job in the first place.”

Shirkey says he is confident that his Republican colleagues in the Legislature will support the bill and that he had “received a high-level of interest, not a commitment,” from Gov. Rick Snyder.

Shirkey also told Michigan Capitol Confidential that at some point he would like to introduce legislation to limit Medicaid benefits to 48 months for individuals whose incomes exceed the federal poverty line.

According to the House Fiscal Agency, current state Medicaid spending totals $17 billion, about a quarter of which comes from state taxpayers with the rest federal money.