Program will build better bridges to self-sufficiency
LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Patrick Colbeck voted on Thursday in favor of Senate Bill 897, legislation that would require able-bodied adults (ages 19-64) to spend an average of 29 hours a week working or receiving training for work in order to obtain Medicaid benefits.
The requirements would be similar to what is already in place for the state’s food stamp program. Medicare would not be affected.
“The purpose of governmental programs like this is to help people truly in need of assistance,” said Colbeck, R-Canton. “The measure of a successful government program should not be how many people get enrolled, but rather in how many people the program enables to find a path to self-sufficiency. We have over 31,000 job openings within an easy commute of the 7th Senate District. It is fair to those already working that support the Medicaid program via their taxes to expect that anyone able to work should do so on their path to self-sufficiency.”
When Michigan expanded the Medicaid program in 2013, it allowed people over the federal poverty line to receive taxpayer-funded Medicaid health benefits. Initial projections estimated that 400,000 enrollees would join the expanded program, a number that has since grown to almost 700,000 new individuals. During that time the economy has improved, including a significant decline in unemployment that has led to many job providers indicating that they can’t find enough people to apply for job openings or having the necessary skillsets to fill them.
While the work requirement for able-bodied adults would be new to the Medicaid program for Michigan, it would be similar to what already exists for food stamp eligibility.
“The Medicaid work requirements will not apply to all Medicaid enrollees, as the legislation takes great care to account for a number of circumstances where part-time work, education or training would not be feasible,” Colbeck said. “At the same time, estimates indicate that at least 200,000 able-bodied individuals would now be required to join the workforce on a part-time basis or seek training and education. This also gives people a path toward full time work, better training and new skillsets so that they can improve their circumstances and enjoy a better quality of life for themselves and their families.”
The legislation would require able-bodied adults age 19-64 to average 29 hours a week either working, going to school, or getting job training. Colbeck said that many exceptions would be made for circumstances such as pregnancy, illness, caregiving, disability, substance abuse treatment, deaths in the family, and other emergencies such as domestic violence. Other exemptions would also exist, and the work requirement would automatically roll back if not enough jobs were available.
Three other states have already been approved by the federal government to add the requirement, and Michigan would join roughly 17 other states also exploring the option since the federal government first made it available to states last year.
SB 897 has passed out of the Senate and now heads to the House. If the bill is signed into law, the effective date for changes to Medicaid benefits would be October 1, 2019.