Whitmer seeks changes in Healthy Michigan work requirements

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently notified the federal government that she plans to work with lawmakers on changes to the Healthy Michigan initiative’s work requirements.

Whitmer’s letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid set out her intentions to seek an amendment to the Healthy Michigan Plan waiver. The plan to extend health care benefits to eligible residents up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level was approved by the Legislature in 2014. The extension aimed to prompt recipients to adopt healthy behaviors.

In 2018, lawmakers approved placing work requirements on recipients.

“As governor, I am committed to doing everything in my power to defend Healthy Michigan and protect coverage for the 680,000 Michiganders who rely on it for quality care,” said Whitmer. “That’s why I plan to take steps in the coming weeks to work with our partners in the Legislature to change the Healthy Michigan Plan so that it preserves coverage, promotes work, reduces red tape and minimizes administrative costs.”

Citing research from the University of Michigan, the governor’s office reported the Healthy Michigan Plan has more than doubled primary care usage, reduced enrollees’ reliance on emergency rooms by 58 percent, cut uncompensated care by $2.8 billion and added $2.3 billion to Michigan’s economy.

According to a news release from Whitmer’s office, an analysis of how similar work requirements were implemented in Arkansas shows 18,000 people in that state lost their insurance within the first seven months of the requirements. Another independent study by Manatt Health found that Michigan’s waiver, once implemented, would take away health insurance from 61,000 to 183,000 Michiganders.

In her letter, the governor wrote: “Based on complex new rules, the new waiver requires most individuals to report on work participation activities on a monthly basis or else lose their health coverage. These onerous reporting requirements could take away health insurance from people struggling to make ends meet, while accomplishing little to expand employment.”

In response, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, told MIRS News that “learning to commit to the disciplines of work is a very key element of fulfilling” the mission of Healthy Michigan, which he said is to remove the health-related obstacles that prevent enrollees from achieving their highest level of personal responsibility.

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