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Wisconsin Looking To Drug Test Medicaid Applicants

Wisconsin will become the first state to require adults who do not have children to pass a drug test before receiving Medicaid, if the state's Republican Gov. Scott Walker receives federal approval to enact the new legislation.

Though Walker requested a waiver two years ago to approve the tests, state lawmakers on the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee are now looking to determine exactly how it would be implemented, reports the Chicago Tribune. Part of those considerations include working out which of Walker's proposals to keep and which to change.

Though 14 other states use drug testing in some portion of their government benefits eligibility determinations, Wisconsin would be the first to tack such requirements onto the health care side of it.

Though the drug test aspect is expected to face legal challenges down the line, President Donald Trump's Republican administration is said to be far more likely to approve the measure than former President Barack Obama's White House.

"I do think that there's a good chance Wisconsin would be the first state to get such a waiver and it could indeed set a trend," said Jon Peacock, research director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Under the new requirements, the state's Medicaid program, called BadgerCare, would apply to an estimated 148,000 of the 1.2 million recipients. Anyone who tests positive would be required to attend taxpayer-funded treatment, while those who decline treatment would lose their benefits until they are tested. Anyone who refuses the test would be banned from Medicaid for six months.

If Walker receives his waiver, childless adults not meeting work requirements would also be kicked off Medicaid after four years, new monthly premiums would be added, and those who smoke or partake in other activities that could lead to health risks would have to pay more than they do now.

Walker has touted the restrictions as a way to encourage people to only use welfare as a "trampoline" to get back on their feet rather than a "hammock," though opponents say that the program will keep sick people from receiving necessary medical attention while not stopping anyone from using drugs.

"It would be an extremely negative development because it treats drug addiction as a moral failing rather than a disease," Peacock said. "It says that we're going to test people first as a condition of getting access to health care, which is backwards. We need to get people into health care programs, build trust with their doctors and then get them the treatment they need."

Wisconsin joins a number of other states, including Arizona and Maine, that are moving their Medicaid programs in a more conservative direction that might not have been approved under the prior administration, notes the Washington Post.

Sources: Chicago Tribune, Washington Post / Photo credit: Michael Vadon/Wikimedia Commons

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