Michigan: This is nuts: GOP Senate attempts to blackmail GOP Governor into approving Medicaid work requirement

2019 OPEN ENROLLMENT ENDS (most states)

Time: D H M S

...which brings me to today's Detroit News, via Jonathan Oosting:

Senate uses salary threat to push Medicaid work plan

Lansing — Michigan’s Republican-led Senate is pressuring Gov. Rick Snyder to back sweeping changes to the state’s Medicaid health insurance system, including proposed work requirements and a tougher 48-month benefit limit for the Healthy Michigan plan.

Side note: I didn't even know about the 4-year limit...and given that even CMS Administrator Seema Verma just shot down lifetime limits on Medicaid benefits in Kansas, it's possible that this wouldn't fly anyway.

But here's the jaw-dropper:

The Senate on Thursday approved a $56.6 billion budget that would suspend salaries for Director Nick Lyon and other top officials in the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services if the Snyder administration does not request and secure a federal waiver to implement Medicaid work requirements.

Yes, that's right: Michigan's Republican-controlled state Senate is now attempting to blackmail our Republican Governor into punishing low-income people for being low-income...and they're doing it over one of the few praise-worthy accomplishments he's had as Governor, and one which he's actually quite proud of.

Making this even more insane is the fact that not only is Rick Snyder in the final 8 months of his final term in office (he's term-limited), but he's also worth over $200 million (I thought he was a billionaire, but apparently he's "only" a hundred-millionaire). They've got nothing to hold over him. Hell, if he really wanted to, he could pay their salaries through December out of his own pocket.

The provision follows last month’s Senate approval of a controversial 29-hour weekly work mandate for able-bodied adults. The legislation is now before the House, and “we just want to send a message that it’s important for the administration to also take it seriously,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell.

"We just want to send a message." Spoken like a true GoodFella.

The budget includes a separate provision directing the state to end expanded eligibility for residents who earn between 100 percent and 133 percent of the federal poverty level after they’ve been on the Healthy Michigan plan for 48 months, eliminating an option to extend coverage by completing healthy behaviors.

OK, that actually makes more sense...I don't care for it much, but at least those folks aren't being left completely high and dry. If you're under 100% FPL there's no time limit; if you're between 100-133% (it's actually 138% in practice), you'd have to shift over to a heavily-subsidized ACA exchange policy. Not great, but not too bad, I suppose.

Democratic Sen. Curtis Hertel of East Lansing called the budget language “severely unconstitutional,” arguing the executive branch is supposed to implement laws. The budget would diminish that role by threatening salary reductions “if they don’t interpret the laws the way we want,” Hertel said.

It actually gets even worse...check out the second sentence below:

...Under the budget, the state would withhold a combined $294,000 in salaries from “unclassified” employees in the state health department until a work requirement waiver is submitted. The state would withhold another $294,000 unless or until the federal government approves the waiver.

Yes, you read that correctly: The MI GOP is now attempting to blackmail both Gov. Snyder and CMS Administrator Seema Verma. Granted, Verma is pretty likely to approve the waiver if it makes it to her desk, but it still strikes me as being unwise for a state legislator to attempt to blackmail the head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid.

Of course, technically speaking, they aren't threatening Snyder and Verma themselves...they're actually holding the salaries of five state employees hostage:

Current unclassified employees include Lyon, Senior Assistant Nancy Grijalva, Chief Medical Executive Eden Wells, senior communications deputy Geralyn Lasher and Cindy Kelly, a design coordinator at the state-operated Caro Center psychiatric hospital, department spokesman Bob Wheaton said.

I honestly don't know what else to say. Wow. Just...wow.