Pubdate: Wed, 31 May 2017
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2017 The New York Times Company


As he prepares to run for a third term, Gov. Scott Walker of
Wisconsin, ever the devotee of low-road, right-wing politicking, is
hoping the Trump administration will allow his state to be the first
in the nation to mandate the drug screening of childless individuals
who apply for Medicaid help.

"It borders on immoral," Lena Taylor, a Democratic state senator,
warned, accusing Mr. Walker of indulging in a "meaningless contest to
see how cruel and discriminatory we can be to the poor."

Across the aisle, Senator Leah Vukmir defended Mr. Walker's draconian
initiative as it advanced last week in the Republican-controlled
Legislature. "We know how to take care of our own," she declared.

After failing on the national stage in the 2015-16 Republican primary
jamboree, Mr. Walker has doubled down on his ideological roots back
home. He is calling for drug testing of not only Medicaid applicants
but also some food stamp applicants, so as to make welfare a
"trampoline, not a hammock." Fourteen other states have limited drug
testing for some state welfare benefits. Mr. Walker, ignoring warnings
that the courts are likely to find his goal unconstitutional,
nevertheless wants to play the pioneer in forcing drug tests on people
applying for Medicaid.

The politics of sloganeering that blames the poor for being poor did
not get far with welfare officials in the Obama administration, who
cautioned that the Walker initiatives violated federal law. But Mr.
Walker obviously sees better prospects in trying again with the Trump
administration. If he succeeds, mandatory drug testing for Medicaid
enrollment would affect an estimated 148,000 of the 1.2 million people
receiving state health care support. They are either totally
impoverished or members of the working poor earning less than $12,060
a year. Refusal to be tested would result in denial of health care for
six months, with repeated state confrontations likely to follow.

If the governor succeeds in appealing to the administration for
permission to carry out his scheme, other conservative states will
most likely consider the step. Jon Peacock, research director of the
Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, warns that such a trend
would be "an extremely negative development because it treats drug
addiction as a moral failing rather than a disease."
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MAP posted-by: Matt