By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU – The state Department of Health Services will take public comment next week in Wausau on a proposal to require childless adults signing up for Wisconsin’s Medicaid program to be screened for drug use and pay premiums.
There are two public hearings on the Medicaid proposal. In Wausau, officials will take public comment from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 26 at Northcentral Technical College. A second hearing will be held in Milwaukee on May 1. See the public notice here.
Under Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal, childless adults who sign up for the Medicaid program would not only be screened for drug use but would be required to pay premiums for their coverage, according to the DHS.
The department will issue a more detailed plan Wednesday and gather public comment before submitting it May 26 to President Donald Trump’s administration for approval, according to the release.
Wisconsin would be the first state with such screening programs in place, the Washington Post reported this month. Walker has also announced plans to drug test some adults seeking food stamps and unemployment payments.
Enrollees with annual individual incomes of $2,412 to $12,060, the cutoff for BadgerCare, would pay monthly premiums of between $1 and $10, according to the plan.
Childless adults would also face higher premiums if they fail to complete a health risk assessment, pay $8 for an emergency room visit and $25 for subsequent visits in the same calendar year. The plan would also limit coverage for able-bodied adults younger than 50 to a maximum of four years unless they are employed or are enrolled in job training programs.
The changes are similar to rules in Indiana, where Vice President Mike Pence made significant changes in the state’s program when he was governor of that state.
Critics say the changes would make coverage more difficult for people who need it and could be costly. A spokesman with the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimated the work and job training requirement alone would cost taxpayers about $48 million per year.
Wisconsin is among 19 states to opt out of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, which provides federal funding for at least 90 percent of cost of new enrollees who make up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.
The GOP-led state Legislature opted instead to cover all adults under the poverty level, allowing about 130,000 childless adults to sign up but shifting roughly 63,000 parents off Medicaid.