Now that House Republicans have squandered their shot at reordering Medicaid, governors who want conservative changes in the health program for low-income Americans must get special permission from the Trump administration.
Near the front of the line is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican who not only supports work requirements and premium payments but also a new additional condition: to make applicants undergo a drug test if they’re suspected of substance abuse.
If Walker gets his way, Wisconsin would be the first state in the country with mandatory drug screening for Medicaid enrollees. The governor plans to release his proposal in mid-April and submit it to the Department of Health and Human Services by the end of May.
The approach — which also would mandate treatment for those testing positive — aligns with the goals of several Republican governors intent on tightening the program’s rules. Although the Obama administration allowed them to place expectations on enrollees, they’re hoping for far more leeway from HHS Secretary Tom Price.
The goal behind Walker’s proposal “is to help people get healthy so they can get back in the workforce,” said Julie Lund, communications director for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
Yet states that have started screening their welfare applicants over the past few years have turned up few drug users. In North Carolina, less than 0.3 percent of applicants to its WorkFirst welfare program tested positive for drugs during a five-month period in 2015. Michigan didn’t find any welfare recipients abusing drugs during a year-long pilot program in 2016.
Opponents of Walker’s idea say the data shows that drug testing for Medicaid applicants isn’t worth the cost and effort.
“They haven’t turned up much use of drugs among that population,” said Jon Peacock, research director for the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families.
People who have problems with paying for basic medical care and prescription drugs don't exactly have a lot of extra cash on hand to pay the local meth dealer, guys. It's common sense, but helping people beat addiction and abuse isn't the point despite Walker saying that those who test positive will be treated.
The real issue is that Walker and Republicans across the country believe that adding stigma and shame to Medicaid along with additional qualification burdens will simply keep people from signing up for help they qualify for (which if you notice has been wildly effective in curtailing access to reproductive health care through abortion procedures, there's a pattern here) because if people don't sign up for it, the program doesn't have to pay for them.
Oh, state taxpayers still have to deal with the burden of indigent care and ER visits, but hey, unhealthy poor people don't tend to stick around quite as long as drains on the tax base if you catch my drift.
If you really wanted those SNAP benefits to feed your family, you'd jump through these hoops.
If you really wanted those unemployment benefits, you'd jump through these hoops.
If you really wanted that abortion, you'd jump through these hoops.
If you really wanted to cast that vote, you'd jump through these hoops.
If you really wanted that Medicaid, you'd jump through these hoops.
Invest long in hoops futures, is the lesson.