Michigan: Medicaid Work Requirement Bill 2.0: Now Racism-Free* & 30% Less Cruel!

*(To be honest, all of these types of bills--work requirements for Medicaid, drug testing for welfare benefits, photo ID for voting--have at least a tinge of racism to them no matter what, but at least this one isn't blatantly racist anymore).

This just in off the AP newswire...

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The sponsor of proposed Medicaid work requirements said Monday that lawmakers are removing a provision to exempt recipients who live in Michigan counties with high unemployment, saying it would have been too difficult to administer and denying allegations of racism.

Republican Sen. Mike Shirkey of Clarklake also told The Associated Press that the proposed 29-hour-a week workforce engagement requirement for able-bodied adults is being lowered to “very close” to 20 weeks. That is in line with the three states that have enacted Medicaid work laws and with Michigan’s work requirement for food assistance beneficiaries.

(I'm guessing that "20 weeks" is a typo; presumably it's supposed to be "20 hours" not "20 weeks" unless they mean 29 hours/week for 20 weeks per year...except that Kentucky does require 20 hours/week, so...typo.)

...A provision that has attracted criticism would let recipients living in counties with 8.5 percent or higher unemployment meet the requirement by actively looking for work unless the jobless rate drops below 5 percent. Opponents have said it would help white residents in rural areas but disproportionately hurt beneficiaries in largely black cities such as Detroit and Flint, where the jobless rate is high but the countywide rate is low.

...He said the Michigan Chamber of Commerce initially proposed the exemption for recipients in counties with higher jobless numbers, which he thought was a “fair and reasonable thing to consider. But now the legislative process is actually working and we find that while it may have been a good idea, it’s not a good idea from the standpoint of complexity and ability to administer. So that’s the reason it’s being removed. It has nothing to do with these ridiculous claims.”

(shrug) Whatever, Sen. Shirkey. If that's what you have to say to save face on this embarrassing issue, fair enough. For what it's worth, I was among the first ones to report on the unemployment rate exemption being pretty obviously racist.

Assuming the work requirement provision is indeed chopped down from 29 hours a week to 20, that would be roughly a 31% reduction in the absurdity level of this bill, so I guess that's a good thing. It would also resolve the insane math problem I noted awhile back:

The minimum wage in Michigan is $9.25/hour. $9.25 x 29 hours = $268.25. Over 52 weeks a year...that totals $13,949 per year.

ACA Medicaid expansion covers people in households earning up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Line.

...So, that's 2 people earning at least $13,949 apiece, for a combined household income of...$27,898. That's 169% of the Federal Poverty Line.

Unless I'm missing something, a couple without any children would have no way of being eligible for Medicaid expansion if they met the 29-hour/week work requirement.

If they do drop the mandatory requirement down to 20 hours, then that same couple, each working at minimum wage, would only earn $19,240/year combined, or aobut 117% FPL, so they'd qualify after all. Hooray?

Of course, even with those two changes, this is still a pretty awful bill; the following points would only change slightly based on the new version:

Michigan’s Medicaid Proposal Would Harm Low-Income Workers — And Can’t Be Fixed

Specifically, the Michigan bill, or any similar proposal, would:

  • Lead to large coverage losses. If the Michigan House lowers the hours-per-week requirement, it would only make it similar to the work requirement approved in Kentucky, which projects large coverage losses....
  • Harm working Medicaid beneficiaries. The industries that commonly employ Medicaid beneficiaries — such as health care services, restaurant and food services, and construction — generally feature variable hours, above-average levels of involuntary part-time work and irregular scheduling, and minimal flexibility....
  • Harm people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups. The Michigan bill, like proposals in other states, exempts people who are medically frail or have medical conditions that prevent them from working. Still, some people with disabilities and serious illnesses would inevitably fall through the cracks and lose coverage....
  • Create new state costs. Michigan would have to spend between $20 million and $30 million a year to administer a work requirement, the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency estimates. This estimate is mostly a function of the size of the population affected, the Fiscal Agency says, which means that the time and cost to regularly verify each person’s eligibility under the new requirements would be the same regardless of the bill’s specific requirements....

Basically, it would still suck, it would just suck somewhat less.

Hopefully further negotiations will result in either a) it not sucking at all (i.e., Gov. Snyder vetoing it outright) or b) it sucking even less than it does now. PROGRESS!