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.”
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.”*
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.
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.”