Traverse City Record-Eagle

Michigan

May 11, 2013

State official doubts Medicaid time limit

LANSING (AP) — The Snyder administration’s top health official on Friday was both receptive to and critical of Republican lawmakers’ alternative plan to make more low-income uninsured adults eligible for Medicaid, expressing confidence that a deal will be reached within a month.

State Department of Community Health Director James Haveman told The Associated Press he is a “glass half-full guy” despite having concerns with the legality of a proposed four-year cap on health insurance for nondisabled adults. About 375,000 such adults are covered now in Michigan, and 320,000 more would qualify in 2014 if Medicaid is expanded.

Haveman said some of them are chronically ill.

“All the logic would tell you that we got to do something for these people,” he said in an interview a day after House Republicans unveiled their Medicaid expansion legislation. “We just can’t continue with this number of people uninsured. It’s all coming down to what the program looks like.”

Medicaid covers roughly one in five Michigan residents — mainly low-income children, pregnant women and the disabled along with some poorer working adults.

Haveman said the administration has concerns with putting a time limit on insuring low-income adults, but he does not want to overreact and called it a starting point. The 48-month Medicaid cap was touted by Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger Thursday as the first such proposal in the country, one designed to give a temporary safety net to more able-bodied adults in hard times.

Critics say many people are working full-time but not making enough to buy their own insurance without government aid.

Time limits are more common with cash assistance, and Haveman said he has not talked to the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services about the idea.

“Is it legal or not? That’s what it will come down to. It wasn’t in the governor’s recommendation,” he said, later saying he does not see the four-year cap as a “poison pill” that could thwart Medicaid expansion.

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