Whitmer wants court to halt Medicaid work mandate

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives the Democratic response to President Trump's State of the Union address, Feb. 4, 2020 | Gov. Whitmer photo

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says an estimated 80,000 Michiganders could lose Healthy Michigan coverage thanks to Medicaid work requirements and she’s asking for a court to declare them unlawful.

She has filed a motion for a partial summary judgement in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The Democratic governor also renewed her call for state legislators to suspend Medicaid work requirements, which GOP leaders have rejected. 

Healthy Michigan is the Medicaid expansion program allowed under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and it has allowed more than 650,000 residents to gain access to comprehensive health benefits. 

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

However, the GOP-controlled Legislature in 2018 passed work requirements and GOP former Gov. Rick Snyder signed them into law, which made reporting work or qualifying activities a condition for Healthy Michigan Plan eligibility.

Whitmer sent out a special message in December 2019 calling on the Legislature to delay implementation of the requirements, as the Advance previously reported. State House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) have strongly opposed her request. 

“Getting a job is the best way to become self-sufficient for a lifetime and escape poverty,” the Republicans said in a statement in December. “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.”

Several lawsuits across the country have successfully challenged other states’ Medicaid work requirements. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Feb. 14 upheld a lower court’s decision that federal approval of Arkansas’ Medicaid work requirements program was unlawful because it did not consider the primary objective of the Medicaid Act, which is to provide health care coverage. 

Study: Medicaid work requirements failed to increase employment rate

Plaintiffs also have challenged Michigan’s program, and Michigan has intervened in that case. The Center for Civil Justice, Michigan Poverty Law Program and National Health Law Program filed a lawsuit in 2019 against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Whitmer adds that since it’s inevitable that the courts will also find Michigan’s work requirements unlawful, the state should not move forward with implementation.

“Doing so would waste millions of taxpayer dollars and cause senseless confusion for tens of thousands of families,” she said.

If nothing is done, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will have to start sending additional letters out around mid-March telling Michiganders they’re at risk of losing their health care coverage.