Michigan’s Discriminatory Work Requirements

by Nicholas Bagley — Tuesday, May 8, 2018

That’s the title of an op-ed that Eli Savit and I just published at the New York Times.

For those who are too poor to afford health insurance, Medicaid is a lifeline. This joint federal and state program doesn’t care whether you’re white or black, Christian or Muslim, Republican or Democrat, a city-dweller or a rural resident. In states that expanded their Medicaid programs under Obamacare, all you have to be is poor enough to qualify.

But maybe not in Michigan. In late April, the state Senate passed a bill that would require Medicaid beneficiaries to find work or else lose their coverage. The bill, now under consideration in the House of Representatives, has come under fire for harming the poor and disabled, as well as for imposing needless paperwork burdens on struggling families. More than 100,000 people may lose health insurance if it passes.

There’s another flaw in the bill, however, one that exposes it to serious legal challenge: It’s racially discriminatory.

We’re indebted to Nancy Kaffer of the Detroit Free Press and Danielle Emerson of the Great Lakes Beacon for first drawing attention to the bill’s racial disparities. In our op-ed, Eli and I explain why those disparities will make Michigan’s proposed approach vulnerable to legal challenge.

We couldn’t fit everything we wanted to say into the op-ed, so we’ll have follow-up posts over the couple of days expanding on the legal theory and explaining why there’s no legitimate justification for the county-level exemption.

@nicholas_bagley & @EliNSavit

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About Nicholas Bagley

Nicholas Bagley is a Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School.

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