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Walker Unveils Drug Testing Proposal for BadgerCare

Marzky Ragsac Jr., fotolia
Gov. Walker wants to drug test some Food Share and Medicaid recipients.


Gov. Scott Walker hasreleased the ruleshe wants to enact for thousands of people who take part in Wisconsin's BadgerCare Medicaid program. Walker wants to cap benefits for childless adults who won't work or take part in job training, and he wants to drug test participants. BadgerCare provides health care coverage for individuals living at or below the poverty line.

Walker, who needs the Trump administration to sign-off on the plan, posted the details Monday for public comment. 

His proposal to screen applicants for drug use has received the most attention.

The proposed changes for childless adultsincludes:

The policy requires individuals to complete a drug screening assessment and, if indicated, a drug test, but individuals will not be ineligible for benefits for testing positive. Individuals who do test positive for a drug will be referred to a Substance Use Disorder, or SUD, treatment program. Members who fail to complete a drug screening assessment or drug test will be ineligible for benefits until the requirement is completed. Refusal to participate in a SUD treatment program will result in ineligibility for benefits for six months.

A public hearing will take place May 1 from 4 - 7 pm at the Milwaukee Center for Independence in Milwaukee. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services plans to submit an application to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on May 26.

Original story from April 12, 2017:

We may soon learn whether President Trump will allow Wisconsin to drug test some people applying for federal benefits – including Food Share and Medicaid. Gov. Walker says he plans to submit a request after he unveils his full proposal next week. 

Walker mentioned the move during his budget address in February: "We’re working with the new administration and Congress to get approval to expand drug testing for people seeking public assistance. If they fail the test, we provide treatment to get them healthy and back into the work force."

Medicaid advocate Robert Kraig, of Citizen Action Wisconsin, is crying foul – he calls Walker’s plan a political move.

“It’s yet another attempt to say that people on a public benefit like BadgerCare are somehow doing something wrong, that there’s a moral failing,” Kraig says. 

Michigan is one of more than a dozen states that has experimented with drug testing people receiving public assistance. Rick Pluta has been coveringthe story for Michigan Radio. He says the first program his state set up tested people at random, but a judge ruled it unconstitutional. So Michigan tried again in 2015 that time using suspicion-based drug testing.

“Public assistance clients would have to answer about 50 questions and if the results showed that they were likely drug users, then they would have to take a test,” Pluta says.

Pluta says Michigan piloted the program in three counties. It administered the questionnaire to 450 people, then screened their answers. Only 14 answered the questions in a way that raised suspicion. The state sent those 14 to their local health department to submit a urine sample.

“And, the state of Michigan netted exactly zero positive results when those people took their drug tests,” he says. 

READ: How many welfare recipients have tested positive in Michigan's drug-testing program so far? None.

Pluta says the state discontinued the program after a year because it didn’t catch anyone using drugs while collecting welfare benefits.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.
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