Michigan bill unfairly exempts voters in predominantly white, rural areas from “Work for Medicaid” program

Last week, the Michigan Senate passed SB 897, a piece of legislation that, assuming it goes on to pass the House, and then gets signed into law, will require a good number of Michigan’s 2.5 million adult Medicaid recipients to prove that they work at least 30 hours per week in order to retain their health coverage… But, wait, that’s not all.

Apparently there’s an exemption in the legislation, which was authored by Republican Senator Wayne Schmidt of Traverse City, for people who live in counties where unemployment exceeds 8.5%. This, according to New York Magazine, “would leave the largely white residents of rural areas, some of which are represented by the bill’s sponsors, exempt from the onerous new rule.” Interestingly, though, the exemption wouldn’t help the people of Detroit or Flint, as both cities are in counties – Wayne and Genesee respectively – that have unemployment rates lower that 8.5%. [This past December, the official unemployment rate in Detroit was 8.7%, whereas the unemployment rate in Wayne County as a whole is presently about 5%.]

So, if you live in Detroit, where there’s high unemployment [real unemployment in the city is thought to be closer to 20%], you’re expected to find jobs elsewhere in Wayne County, even though the mass transit options connecting Detroit to the rest of Wayne County are far from adequate. But, if you live up north, you don’t need to worry about fining a job in order to keep your health care.

So, once again, the citizens of Michigan’s predominantly white rural areas are being the being given the benefit of the doubt, whereas the inhabitants of Detroit and other urban centers are being made to demonstrate that they’re working 30 hours per week in order to qualify for Medicaid… Whether it’s straight-up racism, or just a matter of cold political calculus, with the Republicans knowing that, in order to keep their majority in Lansing, they need to hold onto lower-income white voters in rural Michigan, the fact remains that this legislation, at its heart, is disgusting, cruel and incredibly unfair. And the Democratic Party needs not only to fid a way to stop it, but to break the underlying dynamic, which pits white rural voters in Michigan against black urban voters. As Nancy Kaffer said in yesterday’s Detroit Free Press, this is “one of the ways legislators skillfully pit urban and rural Michiganders with common interests against each other,” and we can’t allow it to keep happening.

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19 Comments

  1. Jcp2
    Posted May 4, 2018 at 4:55 am | Permalink

    Wonkette, but without the fun words.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted May 4, 2018 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    We need a plan to retake the state of Michigan from these people.

  3. Iron Lung 2
    Posted May 4, 2018 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    Not everyone works for an hourly wage. How do contract workers fare under this bill?

  4. Rick Cronn
    Posted May 4, 2018 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Blatant discrimination by racist legislators. Without collective bargaining all workers suffer.

  5. Jean Henry
    Posted May 4, 2018 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    I’m not sure what the new bill does, but it was very hard before for freelance workers to get Medicaid. And if they qualified by income for Medicaid then they couldn’t get into the ACA. As I understand it. (Never tested the premise) To get Medicaid you need to have a consistently low income or go on and off with income fluctuation as it rises over and below thresholds. Reporting in and re-applying each time. Most contract workers do not have consistent income streams. I know I don’t. I just shell out a lot for an ACA plan and hope, if the year is bad, I’ll get something back on my tax return. It’s not ideal but at least I’m insured.

  6. site admin
    Posted May 4, 2018 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    And what are the “fun words”, Jcp2?

  7. Lynne
    Posted May 4, 2018 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Ah Michigan. Passing legislation that is systemically racist as usual. This is normal in our state. It sucks though.

  8. Frosted Flakes
    Posted May 4, 2018 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    I am also having a hard time understanding the logic behind this without applying the “r” word here.

    Lynne, do you have other examples of legislation that strikes you as unfair/ stupid as this? To me this is not normal and should be protested….

  9. John Brown
    Posted May 4, 2018 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Pitting poor rural against poor urban and the liberal elite is their bread and butter. I had yet another multi-beer sit down chat with one of these rural NRA/trump/wallberg supporters recently. Amazingly we seemed to agree 100% on our values for an America that we each wanted for our family and friends. Hard work, education, opportunity, yadda yadda. The difference was when it came to how to deal with those who seemed to threaten that vision. They went right to the “we’re ready for a real purge” line of magic thinking. So I asked if they had any experience with killing people and just how many of us liberal/muslim/lgbtq/black/non-white non-evangelicals they were willing to kill. I offered that it might take upwards of 100 million to make America look like they want. Would you use open pits? Crematorium? What about me? How would you feel about it afterwards? Needless to say that took some of the “magic” out of it for him and he seemed eager to get back to coexisting. I hope more of them start to understand that the vision they’re being sold is not attainable without committing the greatest atrocity in the history of mankind.

  10. Iron lung
    Posted May 4, 2018 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    There were people commenting on this blog even offering apologist arguments for white nationalism.

    It was gross. Even light nods toward ethnic cleansing requires push back of the highest and most forceful order.

  11. Jcp2
    Posted May 4, 2018 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    https://wonkette.com/633452/michigan-to-poors-get-jobs-or-lose-medicaid-unless-you-are-white

    Fun words found here.

  12. Jcp2
    Posted May 4, 2018 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    https://wonkette.com/633452/michigan-to-poors-get-jobs-or-lose-medicaid-unless-you-are-white

    Fun words found here.

  13. Lynne
    Posted May 4, 2018 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    “Lynne, do you have other examples of legislation that strikes you as unfair/ stupid as this? “

    Sure. You will notice that this law is race neutral on the surface but has an impact that affects black people in a different way than white people. Mostly because we are pretty segregated. Also because black people as a group are more economically disadvantaged, laws which have a bigger impact on the poor will disproportionally affect black people. Laws can be crafted in ways that are more favorable to white people. In *general* My white friends in Detroit pay more in car insurance, property taxes, etc than my black friends in Ypsi but those things still affect black people more than white people.

    examples:
    1. taking federal welfare money and using it to fund merit based scholarships which typically are awarded to students who are more likely to be white and not poor.
    2. A school funding structure that allows richer predominately white districts to outspend poorer and blacker districts. I attended Detroit Public Schools and Ann Arbor Public Schools and the difference is striking. Plain and simple, black students are not offered the same quality of education as white students. Which btw is another reason why #1 benefits white kids more than black kids.
    3. Car Insurance – geographical segregation allows for a system were residents of the City of Detroit (mostly black) have the highest car insurance rates in the country. I pay $500 every six months in Ypsi. A Detroit friend with a similarly liability only policy pays $400 a month. This is true of other cities in the state. Guess where most black people live?
    4. Our property tax structure similarly results in black people paying higher property tax rates than white people. Michigan’s property tax laws are structured in a way that allows for economic segregation. Rich communities have higher property values so they can tax at a much lower rate and still raise enough revenue to provide services. Poor communities have to have higher rates to provide lesser services.
    5. The EMF Law
    6. City income taxes

    Is that enough examples for you, FF?

  14. Frosted Flakes
    Posted May 4, 2018 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Lynne.

    I will have to investigate #1 on your list. I don’t want to get into a another long argument about the other things on your list….In my opinion this piece of legislation is different–it is uniquely unfair, stupid and very likely the result of major class, cultural, and/or racial bias on the part of the people who support it. I can’t think of any other “good reasons” to explain the logic behind such a stupid piece of legislation…

  15. Maria E. Huffman
    Posted May 5, 2018 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    shut up. jcp2

  16. Maria E. Huffman
    Posted May 5, 2018 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    or should I write shut up, jcp2? whatever gets the point across.

  17. Jean Henry
    Posted May 5, 2018 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Maria– I’m not sure what offends you, Mark asked for the link. I appreciate that Wonkette is providing this issue national attention. And they do use fun words, which may be easier at some distance from the impacts of the legislation…

    John Brown, thanks for having those in-person conversations. That’s the work. I too have found that most working and middle-class people want the same things for their families. We have to fight the dehumanization. And we have to use strong honest language that pints always to co-existence. Pitting us all against one another has been an effective strategy forever. Whether that comes from white nationalists or MI GOP or white liberals who are afraid of poor people and yet feel pity for them, we need to address it openly and often.

  18. Jean Henry
    Posted May 5, 2018 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    *’Points’ not ‘pints,’ but in your case, JB, ‘pints’ may have been appropriate.

  19. Meta
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    They’re also doing it in Ohio and Kentucky.

    From Talking Points Memo:

    In the GOP-controlled states of Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio, waiver proposals would subject hundreds of thousands of Medicaid enrollees to work requirements, threatening to cut off their health insurance if they can’t meet an hours-per-week threshold.

    Those waivers include exemptions for the counties with the highest unemployment, which tend to be majority-white, GOP-leaning, and rural. But many low-income people of color who live in high-unemployment urban centers would not qualify, because the wealthier suburbs surrounding those cities pull the overall county unemployment rate below the threshold.

    “This is sort of a version of racial redlining where they’re identifying communities where the work requirements will be in full effect and others where they will be left out,” George Washington University health law professor Sara Rosenbaum told TPM. “When that starts to result in racially identifiable areas, that’s where the concern increases.”

    Rosenbaum and other health law experts say the waivers — already approved for Kentucky, pending for Ohio, and advancing in Michigan’s legislature — may run afoul of Title 6 of Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits race-based discrimination in federal assistance programs. Under that statute, even policies that are racially neutral on their face but have a disparate impact on a particular group could be illegal.

    Read more:
    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/trump-admin-poised-to-give-rural-whites-a-carve-out-on-medicaid-work-rules

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