Michigan Republicans Closer to Ending Healthcare for Most Vulnerable

The Michigan Senate has passed legislation requiring those on Medicaid to work in an effort toward “self-sufficiency,” they said. The problem, however, is that most Medicaid recipients are already working, and if they are not, they physically cannot.

“Criminalizing the poor is wrong,” said Sen. Ian Conyers (D-Detroit) in a no-vote explanation on the bill.

The legislation is an extension of the Trump administration’s recent decision to sign an executive order – his 68th in 15 months in office – directing federal agencies to promote employment for those on public assistance.

The legislation is based on a Republican ideology that those on public assistance are lazy and not trying to find work – a notion found to be inaccurate in a study by the Michigan League for Public Policy (MLPP) on Medicaid recipients, which highlighted research by the University of Michigan that found nearly 50 percent of Medicaid recipients in Michigan are already working.

Sen. Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), the lead sponsor of Senate Bill 897, has said work requirements on Medicaid recipients is a way to lead those folks on a path of self-sufficiency. However, it’s unclear how Shirkey defines self-sufficiency, as the MLPP noted those currently employed and qualifying for Medicaid make no more than $15,800 as an individual or $32,300 for a family of four.

The legislation also appears to duplicate existing state-funded services. Specifically, it requires the state’s Department of Health and Human Services to direct recipients to resources for job training – a function also served by the state’s Michigan Works! facilities and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Pure Michigan Talent Connect (available regardless of socioeconomic status).

The MLPP report on the state’s Medicaid recipients also determined the rest of those surveyed who were not working while receiving Medicaid were unable to do so due to fair or poor health (11.3 percent), or because they were retired (2.5 percent), students (5.2 percent) or homemakers (4.5 percent)

Roughly 2.4 million people in Michigan depend on Medicaid as their primary source of healthcare in Michigan, and as Congress and the Trump administration continue to tear apart the Affordable Care Act’s ability to provide a means for people who never had healthcare before to have it, public assistance programs become increasingly valuable, Jacobs noted.

“(Elected officials) ignored the people they were sent to Lansing to represent. They disregarded the large group of advocates voicing strong opposition and what this would really mean to students, cancer patients and others struggling with illness, and our economy,” Gilda Jacobs, president and CEO of the MLPP, said. “They dismissed the hundreds of concerned residents that have reached out to their legislators … and they wrote off all of the people who have contacted our office to express their fears about this bill and how it will turn their lives upside down.

“These are people who have Medicaid for a variety of reasons, from having had tragic accidents that have left them homebound to having temporarily low incomes due to unexpected life changes. These are real Michiganders who are scared of losing access to the healthcare they so badly need. They’re struggling every day, yet some lawmakers want to make that struggle even more difficult,” she said.

The vote was mostly along party lines, with Republicans in support and Democrats in opposition. Sen. Margaret O’Brien of Portage was the lone Republican to vote against the measure.

Danielle Emerson

Danielle Emerson