Republican leaders in the Michigan Legislature announced Tuesday that they won’t comply with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s request to pause work-related requirements for Michigan’s Medicaid expansion program.
“Out of respect for those taxpayers, we are not willing to pause our state’s new welfare work requirements,” House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) said in a joint statement provided to the Associated Press.
“These work requirements are also the right thing to do for people who need short-term help. Getting a job is the best way to become self-sufficient for a lifetime and escape poverty,” the statement added.
Gov. Whitmer sent a “special message” to lawmakers Tuesday requesting the pause, noting that the state has already spent $28 million to implement the new workforce requirements. Whitmer’s request is based on a November lawsuit filed in federal court challenging the legality of Michigan’s work requirements.
“I ask that the legislature act prudently in the best interests of Michigan taxpayers to suspend Michigan’s work requirements while this litigation is pending. If work requirements are blocked by the court, a pause now could avoid up to $40 million in wasted expense. It could further avoid needlessly confusing hundreds of thousands of our residents with messages soon undone by a federal court,” Whitmer said.
She noted that the “same federal judge who will hear the Michigan case has already enjoined similar work requirements in Arkansas, Kentucky and New Hampshire.”
As an example of potential waste, Whitmer said the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will soon need to send information regarding compliance mandates to 200,000 Michiganders. If the statute is overturned, however, then the state will “need to find a way to communicate to those 200,000 people that our first letter no longer applies.”
“I hope your share my concern with risking tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on implementing a program that faces substantial legal uncertainty,” Whitmer concluded her message.
The work requirements were passed last year by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed into law by former Gov. Rick Snyder. Starting January 1, able-bodied adults between the ages of 19 and 61 will need to demonstrate a monthly average of 80 hours of workforce engagement in order to maintain their coverage in Healthy Michigan, a Medicaid expansion plan. Workforce engagement includes school, work, training, community service, and substance abuse treatment.
– – –