The Michigan Chamber has pointed to Census data analyzed by the right-leaning Foundation for Government Accountability suggesting that half of Michigan’s Medicaid expansion enrollees don’t work.
That statistic is backed up by a 2016 survey — released last year — of more than 4,000 Healthy Michigan adult recipients by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, which found that roughly 49 percent of respondents were employed. It also noted, however, that a large percentage of unemployed people had some kind of health condition or disability that prevented them from working.
Shirkey, using the finding that half of adult Medicaid expansion enrollees are unemployed, estimates between 300,000 and 350,000 people could be required to find work under his bill.
But those numbers have some significant caveats.
Shirkey’s bill includes numerous exemptions, including, among others: a caretaker of a child younger than 6; a student whose parents qualify for Medicaid or who is legally emancipated; people who receive long-term disability benefits; pregnant women; and people considered medically frail or who have medical conditions that impede work. People who live in counties with an unemployment rate of at least 8.5 percent would be allowed to count their job search toward the work rules.
The Senate Fiscal Agency said in its analysis that nearly 1 million Medicaid recipients could be subject to the work rules — nearly 700,000 Healthy Michigan recipients and another 300,000 people who receive federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families benefits.
But because of the exemptions carved into the bill, analysts wrote, that figure “should be considered to be a maximum well in excess of the actual number of people who would be subject to the work requirement.”
This month, the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted that Kentucky estimated its proposal could lead to a 15 percent reduction in adult Medicaid recipients. A similar cut in Michigan could equate to roughly 150,000 people, according to the author, Jesse Cross-Call, a senior policy analyst with the center.
University of Michigan researchers found that while close to 51 percent of the Healthy Michigan enrollees surveyed weren’t working, many of them were in poor health or had other physical or mental conditions that served as barriers to work.
Of the 11 percent who reported that they can’t work, for instance, nearly three in four said they had fair or poor health, roughly seven in 10 had a physical impairment and nearly half had a mental condition.
“What this implied to us was that it seems like from these findings most people who can work are already working, and those groups that are not currently working clearly have a lot of health conditions or impairments that likely prevent them from being able to work,” said IHPI member Renuka Tipirneni, an assistant professor of internal medicine at U-M’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.
“We’re not sure how much bang for your buck you’re going to get from the work requirement,” she added.
That’s not the chamber’s takeaway from the numbers.
“We fundamentally and philosophically disagree,” said Wendy Block, senior director of health policy, human resources and business advocacy for the Michigan Chamber.
“For us, it isn’t about how many. It’s about helping people find a path to independence and help our members fill the workplace shortages that they have,” Block said. “If it’s 10,000 workers, that is helpful to the business community.”