MADISON, Wis. (CN) – Wisconsin could become the first state to require drug tests for childless adult Medicaid enrollees, if a plan being submitted to the federal government next month is approved.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s administration proposes that adults without children would have to take a drug screening assessment and, “if indicated, a drug test,” to get state Medicaid benefits under the new policy, according to a proposal summary released Monday by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
If a Medicaid applicant tests positive for drugs, they could still receive benefits but will be referred to a drug treatment program. Failure to follow through with the program would result in benefit ineligibility for six months.
No childless adult applicant would be eligible for benefits under BadgerCare – Wisconsin’s Medicaid program – until they complete the drug screening.
The proposed policy change is meant as a preventative measure to combat drug abuse, which state officials say threatens the public health and welfare of Wisconsinites.
Public hearings on the BadgerCare reform plan will be held in Wausau on April 26 and Milwaukee on May 1, before the Wisconsin Department of Health Services submits the proposal to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on May 26.
The proposal also contains incentives for health behaviors. A health risk assessment questionnaire would be used to flag healthy behavior and health risks. It is not a requirement for coverage eligibility, but childless adult enrollees can have their premiums cut in half if they engage in healthy behaviors.
Monthly BadgerCare premiums for childless adults range from $1 to $10 based on household income, and are waived for household incomes between 0 and 20 percent of the federal poverty level.
The Department of Health Services said it will release a more detailed version of the plan on Wednesday.
Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, said in a statement that Gov. Walker “is playing politics with the health and safety of people who need medical care the most.”
“His forced drug testing proposal flies in the face of decades of medical science which has determined that substance use disorders are a disease not a moral failing,” Kraig said. “If Walker was really interested in tackling the opioid epidemic and reduce substance use, he would fully fund voluntary prevention, screening, and treatment programs recommended by public health experts. Instead, he is playing on the worst stereotypes about people with substance use issues and all moderate income people who can’t afford to buy health coverage on their own.”