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Gov. Whitmer, MDHHS Urge Legislature to Delay Costly Changes to Healthy Michigan Plan that May Now be Ruled Illegal

December 3, 2019 


Gov. Whitmer, MDHHS Urge Legislature to Delay Costly Changes to Healthy Michigan Plan that May Now be Ruled Illegal

Taxpayer dollars and public health at risk unless legislature takes action


LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Legislature should delay implementation of Healthy Michigan Plan work requirements rather than risk wasting taxpayer dollars and creating needless confusion now that the requirements face a serious legal challenge, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said today in a special message sent to the legislature’s leadership.

“Every Michigander deserves access to quality, affordable health care, and I’m working to ensure we take steps toward reaching that goal,” said Governor Whitmer. “Health care for hundreds of thousands of Michiganders is on the line here, and we can’t rush this process while the courts decide on Medicaid work requirements. The legislature should do the right thing here and protect Michigan taxpayers while the courts determine legality. Then, we must work together to ensure affordable coverage for Michiganders everywhere.”

A law approved before Gov. Whitmer took office makes the work requirements effective Jan. 1. The law threatens health coverage for approximately 200,000 individuals who receive it through the Healthy Michigan Plan, the state’s highly successful expanded Medicaid program.

On Friday, November 22nd, a lawsuit was filed challenging the Healthy Michigan Plan work requirements. In Arkansas, Kentucky and New Hampshire, after similar lawsuits were filed a court issued an injunction halting application of the work requirements. An appeal of those decisions was argued in the federal court of appeals on Oct. 11. In the oral argument, the three judges, including one appointed by President Ronald Reagan, expressed skepticism about the legality of work requirements.

After the oral argument, Republican governors in Indiana and Arizona voluntarily put work requirements implementation on hold. The Republican governor in New Hampshire had voluntarily taken the same step earlier in the summer.

Governor Whitmer asked the legislature to authorize the same action as these three states with Republican governors have taken.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has already spent $28 million in preparing for work requirements and the state is on track to spend $40 million more in fiscal year 2020, the equivalent of assisting 14,000 additional children through the Child Care and Development program. If the courts block these requirements, this money will be wasted. Even if the courts only temporarily block them – as they have done with similar programs in other states – the state risks wasting money and creating confusion for thousands of Michigan families.

For example, MDHHS will soon send letters that outline compliance mandates to approximately 200,000 Michiganders, notifying these individuals of steps they must take starting on January 1, 2020 if they wish to keep their health insurance. This is a cost of $1 million. If the implementation of work requirements is blocked by court, then MDHHS will need to communicate to those 200,000 people that the December letter is no longer valid and they need not do what it said they must. The $1 million used on the December letter will not only have been unnecessarily spent; it will also serve as a source of confusion for Michigan families.

MDHHS Director Robert Gordon notified legislative leadership about the need for a delay on November 25. “Since my appointment, I have been candid about my concerns with work requirements,” Gordon wrote. “This request is not about a permanent change in the policy. It is about a temporary pause that allows the state to best serve the citizens of Michigan by avoiding future spending and confusion until this significant legal uncertainty is resolved.”

Unless the requirements are delayed, beginning Jan. 1, Healthy Michigan Plan beneficiaries will be required to report to MDHHS each month 80 hours of work or other eligible activities, such as job training. Letters MDHHS sent to 270,000 Healthy Michigan Plan beneficiaries in September explained that if they do not report, they could lose health care coverage.

Four Michigan residents filed the lawsuit at issue on November 22, 2019 in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The federal agency approved Michigan’s request for a waiver of certain federal Medicaid requirements, allowing the work requirement program passed by the state legislature to move forward. These individuals claim the agency violated various provisions of federal law in approving the state’s waiver request and ask the court to block the work requirements from taking effect.

To view the full special message from the governor, click the link below: