Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is attempting to be a trailblazer, but he's incredibly misguided. On April 19, he will be the first in the United States to propose drug testing for Medicaid applicants.
In addition to new Medicaid time limitations, sliding scale premiums on emergency visits, and other Draconian additions, the proposal will require all childless, able-bodied adults living below the poverty line who are seeking government benefits to answer a series of questions related to illegal drug usage, as well as submit to testing.
According to Governing, if the applicant refuses to comply, they will go without government health insurance (and likely health insurance altogether) for a minimum of six months. If they test positive for drug usage, they might receive "treatment" — whatever that means to lawmakers at this point.
The proposal will be open to public feedback for one month, after which Walker will send a formal request to President Donald Trump's administration, where he is sure it will be approved.
According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal, Walker's proposal "loosely mirrors some actions taken in Indiana under that state's former governor, Vice President Mike Pence, and Seema Verma, a former consultant to Indiana who is now head of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services."
Both Pence and Verma stand as shining examples to those politicians seeking to gut Medicaid; both have worked hard to make the government program inaccessible by imposing work requirements and regional caps on benefits, as found in the American Healthcare Act (AHCA).
The Washington Post reported on April 2 that Walker's actions fell well in line with the goals of Republican governors from Indiana, Arizona, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Arkansas, all of whom have requested or plan to request work requirements for Medicaid recipients. They are expecting the current administration to be on-board, as the dismantling of any government aid given to Americans living in poverty seems to be a White House priority.
Earlier this month, Verma and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price sent a letter to governors stating that Medicaid program proposals related to "training, employment, and independence" would be welcomed.
Walker has a history of making life more difficult for those living in poverty, and his actions stem from stereotypes and a devastating lack of awareness of what life is like for the impoverished American. He has refused millions of dollars in federal funding for Medicaid expansion multiple times and required drug testing for those in need of welfare.
"What we're trying to do is get people accustomed to transitioning into the workforce," Walker told the Journal-Sentinal.
He said sees tackling drug usage and work requirements as an integral part of that. While unemployment and the harsh truth of addiction are problems that should be addressed, his way of tackling these issues is entirely punitive. If a person is addicted to drugs, denying them health insurance is only going to put their lives at increased risk.
"We're singling out lower-income people, playing on stereotypes, on the premise that somehow people on Medicaid are getting something they shouldn't be getting," said Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, to the Post.
Walker's proposition, like many made by GOP politicians targeting government aid programs, will not solve issues of poverty, unemployment, and drug abuse, but instead drive those struggling into deeper crisis.
Studies show that these disciplinary techniques do not have evidence of being successful and instead just cost the state a lot of money.
Ironically, Walker's plan — which he envisions as an aid to the Wisconsin economy — will cost a whopping $48 million a year in state and federal funding to operate, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau and Journal-Sentinel. The emotional, mental, and physical price of poverty is already high, but who knew it would cost so much to make it worse.