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Health, Science and Environment

Healthcare work requirement sent to governor’s desk

flickr user: Marco Barisione

Michigan residents in the Healthy Michigan insurance program are a signature away from mandated work requirements.

The bill has been put on the fast track recently. It passed out of the House Wednesday during a contentious session. Thursday the Senate gave it a final procedural vote.

Previous versions of the bill were more sweeping and would have applied to everyone on Medicare. As the bill made its way through the Legislature, exemptions were added and the amount of required work was reduced. But critics say that still isn’t enough.

Senator Coleman Young (D-Detroit) spoke out against the bill. He said the requirement would cause people to lose their healthcare and that’s inhumane.

“Even with all the changes this legislation has made in the chamber down the hall, it’s still a turd,” he said. “A shiny turd, but a turd nonetheless.”

If signed, able-bodied people in the Healthy Michigan insurance program would be required to work, go to school or get job training for 80 hours per month starting in 2020. Experts estimate hundreds of thousands of Michiganders would be affected if Governor Rick Snyder signs the legislation, and in spite of earlier opposition, the governor is now signaling his support for the plan. Most Republicans were on board, saying it would help close the unemployment gap.

“We want to make certain, as I’ve been clear, that welfare benefits are a hand up not a hand out,” said Speaker of the House Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt). “We want to make certain that we’re helping people. We’re not keeping them in this vicious cycle of assistance.”

If the governor signs it, the non-partisan House Fiscal Agency predicts the state could save between 7 and 22 million dollars a year. But Republican Senator Margaret O’Brien (R-Portage) broke with her party because she’s concerned about the lack of a solid estimate on the cost of implementing the requirement and other possible unintended consequences.

“I still had concerns that unintentionally some Michiganders who are working, who are doing their best, were going to drop off,” she said.