Work Requirements

I last updated my Michigan Medicaid expansion tracking back in January.At the time, I noted that enrollment in this ACA programhas increased dramatically here in Michigan since the COVID-19 pandemic struck, increasing from 673,000 in February 2020 to 853,000 as of January 2021, or nearly 27% in less than one year.

As of April 5th, the Healthy Michigan program (that's the branding of Michigan's ACA Medicaid expansion) notes 897,261 enrollees. That's a net increase of 224,000 Michiganders enrolled in the program since last February, or over 33%.

With this as backdrop, consider the timing of the following events:

 

Nearly six years ago:

In other words, only about 10% (at most) of those still in the Medicaid Gap could remotely match the GOP's cliche of a "lazy, good-for-nothing layabout" type who's able-bodied, has no serious extenuating circumstances and so forth. The "get off your ass and work!" requirements appear to be nearly as big a waste of time and resources as the infamous "drug testing for welfare recipients" bandwagon which a bunch of states jumped on board over the past few years.

I suppose this was inevitable, but it's grating nonetheless, and especially so given that we're in the middle of a pandemic which has caused tens of millions of Americans to lose their jobs:

The Supreme Court agreed Friday to consider a Trump administration plan to let states impose work requirements on some who receive health-care benefits under the Medicaid program for the poor.

Arkansas and New Hampshire want to continue programs halted by lower courts, and more than a dozen other states say they want to impose similar requirements.

But despite the Supreme Court’s willingness to take up the issue, the incoming Biden administration might have other ideas, and opponents called on it to reverse endorsement of the work requirements.

One by one, the dozen or so states which had either already implemented work requirement programs for Medicaid expansion enrollees or which were planning on doing so have either "delayed" or dropped those requirements entirely, either by force due to a federal judge ruling against them, or "voluntarily" due to them seeing the writing on the wall and realizing that a federal judge was going to rule against them in the near future.

Every state except one, that is: Utah.

Utah passed ACA Medicaid expansion solidly back in 2018...and they passed a "clean" version, which was supposed to mean anyone earning up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Line would be eligible, and the program wouldn't have any barriers or hurdles like work requirements and so forth.

This just broke moments ago so I don't have much in the way of details yet:

DC district court just entered summary judgment holding Michigan’s Medicaid work requirements are unlawful.

— Jane Perkins (@perkins_nhelp) March 4, 2020

Work requirements are a policy disaster -- and their suspension by court order here in Michigan is an extraordinarily positive development.

— Nicholas Bagley (@nicholas_bagley) March 4, 2020

There is, however, also this:

This just broke moments ago, so I don't have a lot of details, but the bottom line is this:

US Appeals Court in DC rules today that Trump admin. unlawful in approving Arkansas Medicaid work requirement

— Stephanie Armour (@StephArmour1) February 14, 2020

Here's the opinion itself.

As always, University of Michigan Law Professor Nicholas Bagley has the skinny:

It's a clean win for the plaintiffs, and it comes in a short, decisive opinion written by Judge Sentelle -- a very conservative Reagan appointee. 

Before: PILLARD, Circuit Judge, and EDWARDS and SENTELLE, Senior Circuit Judges. Opinion for the Court filed by Senior Circuit Judge SENTELLE.

For nearly three years now, the Trump Administration and Republican politicians across dozens of states have been claiming that expanding Medicaid to "able-bodied adults" encourages them to be lazy couch potatoes, lying around on their butts just soaking up all that sweet, sweet free healthcare coverage. That's the main excuse they've used to tack on draconian work requirements for Medicaid expansion enrollees: Supposedly doing so goads them into getting off their rumps, pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and becoming a Productive Member of Society, etc etc.

Of course, the reality is that most Medicaid expansion enrollees already work, and of those who don't most are already either in school, caring for a child or a medically frail relative, etc etc...meaning that work requirements impose a mountain of burdensome paperwork and reporting requirements in order to "catch" a tiny handful of people who supposedly match the "lazy bum" stereotype...but instead end up kicking thousands of people who are working/in school/etc. off of their coverage because they aren't able to keep up with the reporting requirements.

Elections matter.

True to his word, newly-inaugurated Democratic Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear has indeed eliminated the state's controversial and much-litigated Medicaid work requirement provision for the 400,000 state residents who are on the low-income healthcare program thanks to the Affordable Care Act:

Former Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s controversial plan to impose work requirements and monthly premiums for many Kentucky Medicaid recipients is no more, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear announced Monday.

(Monday = Last Monday; this is from a week ago)

In one of his first major moves as the 63rd governor of Kentucky, Beshear signed an executive order Monday rescinding Bevin’s Kentucky HEALTH plan, which sought to impose strict work requirements for able-bodied, working-age adults. It would have ended health coverage for an estimated 95,000 Kentuckians.

I haven't written about Utah's batcrap Medicaid expansion program in quite awhile...since last March, in fact. As a reminder, here's where things stood at the time:

Yes, that's right: Not only did they lop 50,000 people out of the loop entirely, the other 90 - 100K enrollees will also be subject to...wait for it...work requirements. Well...sort of; keep reading.

First, it looks like they'll have to apply to at least 48 employers as well. So...what, if they get hired by the first one they still have to apply with 47 more?

Note that it says "and" before the fourth item, not "or"...which means all of them will have to register online, complete a training assessment, apply to at least 48 companies and complete an online training course.

...Oh by the way, one more thing: The minimum wage in Utah is $7.25/hour.

Just days after a lawsuit was filed challenging Michigan's impending Medicaid expansion work requirements, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer sent a letter to legislative Republicans urging them to stop throwing good money after bad on a policy which is pretty much doomed to failure anyway:

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said delaying implementation of work requirements for enrollees in Michigan's Medicaid expansion program would prevent the state from potentially wasting at least $1 million.

The Democrat issued a special message to legislative leaders Tuesday, a day after saying the Republican-controlled Legislature should pause the rules taking effect in January.

Whitmer said the state has spent $28 million to implement the workforce engagement requirements and is on track to spend an additional $40 million this fiscal year — an unnecessary expense if a federal judge blocks the rules.

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