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Lawmakers explore work requirements for Medicaid

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The state Legislature began discussions Wednesday on the newest plan to make people work for Medicaid.

The bill would require able-bodied adults to perform an average of 30 hours of work, job training, or education every week. Pregnant adults, people with medical disabilities, and others would not be included.

Bill sponsor, Senator Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, and the CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Richard Studley, both agreed that the state’s Medicaid expansion, Healthy Michigan, isn’t working.

“The program that was implemented is out of control,” said Studley during a committee hearing. “It is over enrolled. It is underfunded. It does not contain many of the commonsense reforms to encourage and support individuals as they work.”

Studley said making people work to receive Medicaid would help to fix the problems he sees.

But opponents aren’t convinced that Healthy Michigan needs fixing, nor that working for Medicaid is the right move for the state. They’re concerned this requirement would kick people off of Medicaid and cost the state too much for things like oversight. They called on the Legislature to clarify how the process would work.

Lisa Ruby of the Michigan Poverty Law Program wants a clear definition for terms like “acute medical condition” and “physician’s order.”

“So that we’re not creating more paperwork and more red tape, and more fiscal burden on DHS as they try to unpack the words of the bills that go forward,” she said during her testimony at the committee hearing.

Shrikey says this is just the start. He also wants to look at changes to Healthy Michigan – a program he says doesn’t follow the Legislature’s original intent.

“We have statute that says one thing, we have a waiver that conflicts with the statute and we have proposed government spending that’s in conflict with the statute,” he said.

Shirkey said the work requirement bill will move through the Senate soon after the Legislature comes back from its spring break – which starts next week.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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