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Medicaid work requirements could affect 700,000 people

Doctor's stethoscope
The work requirement policy is still awaiting approval from the federal administration. If it isn't given, the entire Healthy Michigan Plan could be cut.

The Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation says Michigan's new Medicaid work requirements will affect the nearly 700,000 people dependent on the Healthy Michigan Plan for health insurance once they go into effect in January 2020.

Unless they receive an exemption, people will be required to work an average of 80 hours a month to receive the health insurance services. Activities such as full-time school and drug treatment programs also qualify as work under the policy.

Those who fail to meet the requirement could face losing their coverage for at least a month, though it could renew when they begin working again.

CHRT released a consumer guideto the changes after Governor Snyder signed the law last Friday in an effort to raise awareness about how this new requirement might actually affect people.

Marianne Udow-Phillips, executive director of CHRT, says some substantial revisions were made to the bill between when it was introduced in the state Senate and when it was approved last week. Notably, an exemption for residents of counties with high unemployment rates, which some called racist, was removed. The exemptions will also only apply to participants of Michigan’s Medicaid extension program, the Healthy Michigan Plan, rather than all Medicaid recipients.

“The impact of work requirements got narrowed,” Udow-Phillips says. “Many of those individuals will be exempt from those work requirements, but they will have to go through a process where they are granted that exception, so we wanted people to understand what those exemptions are.”

But Udow-Phillips worries the new policy will deter people from the program even if they know they qualify for an exemption.

“If there are paperwork requirements or there are just more steps for them to get coverage, that could discourage them, and we are worried that people will lose coverage who could really benefit.”

A 2016 evaluation of the Healthy Michigan Plan from the University of Michigan said that 48.8 percent of program participants reported being employed or self-employed. Bob Wheaton, public information officer at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, told Michigan Radio in an email that he suspects up to 400,000 people could have to seek employment to keep their coverage once the policy goes into effect.

The work requirement policy is still dependent on approval from the federal government. If that isn't obtained within 12 months, the entire Healthy Michigan program could be terminated.  

Maya Goldman is a newsroom intern for Michigan Radio. She is currently a student at the University of Michigan, where she studies anthropology and writing. During the school year, Maya also works as a senior news editor and podcast producer for The Michigan Daily.
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