Walker moves forward with plans to cut more people off Medicaid

From AP and WiG reports

Gov. Scott Walker is forging ahead with plans to move more people off Medicaid by capping benefits for childless adults who aren’t working and subjecting some to drug tests.

Details of his proposals, which require sign-off from the federal government, were posted this week for public comment.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services plans to submit an application to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at the end of May.

Walker’s most talked about proposal would screen applicants for drug use. Applicants who refuse a drug test would go several months without coverage.

The Republican governor says his proposals would send more people to work.

Democrats argue Wisconsin should instead take federal money to expand Medicaid, as some Republican-controlled states have done.

Reaction to Walker’s plans

In a media call on April 17, representatives from Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Council on Children and Families and substance use disorder experts Dr. Richard Brown and Jesse Heffernan raised concerns about Walker’s plans.

They said the drug testing proposal would be costly, impractical and counterproductive.

“The whole idea is misguided. Depriving drug-addicted people of Medicaid will deprive them of high quality health care. This is the last thing we want during our current opioid epidemic,” said Brown, founder of Wisconsin Initiative to Promote Healthy Lifestyle at UW School of Medicine “The internet is full of guidance on how people who are using drugs can escape detection. Drug testing will likely not to identify most drug users and will be a total waste of time and money. Wisconsin already has many people on waiting lists to receive treatment. The longer people wait, the less likely they will actually end up in treatment. The $48 million proposed for drug testing would be much better used to reduce wait times for people who already want treatment.”

“Scott 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,” said Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “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.”

“The fact is we don’t even have the number of treatment beds in this state to handle a major influx of patients if people’s coverage is at risk,” added Jesse Heffernan of Helios Addiction Coaching. “Gov. Walker’s proposal perpetuates stigma and does not prioritize prevention. For someone who is actively using or seeking recovery, how can we expect them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps when they are facing a constant struggle. This is not the recipe to make someone a productive member of society again.”