The Michigan Senate has approved Bill 897 that would reduce the State’s budget by cutting the number of persons on Medicaid. The Senate vote was 26-11. Under the proposed legislation, Michigan residents aged 19 to 64 would be required to work 29 hours a week to be eligible for Medicaid.
Michigan will be the fourth state in the nation within the last year to impose Medicaid work requirements. Kentucky, Arkansas, and Indiana now require 20 hours a week. Michigan would be the first state to require 29 hours. The Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) has said “While MCC appreciates the inclusion of exemptions to protect the vulnerable, concerns remain with predicating one’s health coverage on his or her employment status.”
As Vincentians concerned about social justice, we share that concern and accordingly urge you to take action by clicking on this link to send a message to your State Representative asking that this bill be fundamentally changed before it becomes law.
The three key priority areas that the Michigan St. Vincent de Paul Society Voice of the Poor Committees suggest be changed are below:
1. Eliminate or reduce the 29 hours of work requirement
The reality for many of the working poor is that they do not have stable working hours. Having a requirement of 29 hours would be very difficult for those who have a job but are under-employed and not receiving as many hours as they would prefer. Employers would have the unfair power and burden to control who has the hours to receive medical coverage and who does not. Another difficulty is that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) would be required to enforce who is and is not working 29 hours a week.
2. Increase funding for DHHS
This proposed legislation creates unnecessary new constraints and bureaucratic hoops through which DDHS must jump in its attempt to help those in need without additional funding. DDHS is already an overworked unit of our government. The net practical effect is that DHHS will be able to serve less of our unfortunate Michigan friends in need because of this legislation.
3. Get more empirical data on how this will affect Michigan residents and hospitals
There has not yet been any direct experience with a Medicaid work requirement in any other state. Do we want to be the test subjects? Michigan does impose a work requirement for food stamps. But while there are many food pantries for families, there are less free resources for medical care. The practical impact of this could mean less people receiving preventative medicine and benefiting from regular doctor’s visits, and more people forced to the Emergency Rooms with attendant big bills that the serving hospitals will never recover. Thus, this legislation could also negatively impact our hospitals.
Please contact your Representative as soon as possible.