Gov. Walker’s Welfare Changes Approved By Wis. Lawmakers

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Changes to Wisconsin’s welfare programs proposed by Gov. Scott Walker that won approval by the Legislature’s budget-writing committee on Thursday include:

— Requiring able-bodied childless adults in the state’s main Medicaid program BadgerCare, as well as parents on food stamps, to be working or receiving job training for 80 hours per month. That is the same requirement already in place for childless adults who receive food stamps.

Since that took effect in April 2015, about 21,000 childless adults have found work and 64,000 have lost benefits.

The new requirement for parents on food stamps would be started as a pilot program in counties yet to be determined. Only families with children ages 6 to 18 would be affected.

Parents who fail to meet the work requirements would not face losing their benefits like childless adults do. Instead, the parents only, and not their children, would lose benefits for one month for the first offense, three months for the second offense and six months for a third and subsequent offense.

scott walker at minnesota capitol Gov. Walkers Welfare Changes Approved By Wis. Lawmakers

Gov. Scott Walker (credit: CBS)

The budget committee voted to give itself oversight authority of the program should it win approval by President Donald Trump’s administration as expected.

Numerous changes that require federal approval, but that would also be subject to legislative oversight, include:

— Requiring all able-bodied, childless adults applying for BadgerCare health benefits to be screened for illegal drugs, including marijuana which is not legal in Wisconsin even for medical purposes. Those who refuse a drug test would be ineligible for coverage until the test is completed, while people who test positive would get treatment paid for by taxpayers through the Medicaid program. Those who refuse treatment would lose benefits for six months.

— Expanding drug test requirements for food stamp recipients to parents of children age 6 to 18. A requirement that childless adults receiving food stamps be screened for drugs was passed in the prior state budget, but it’s yet to take effect pending federal approval. Former President Barack Obama’s administration warned Wisconsin at the time the requirement was passed two years ago that it was barred under federal law.

— Limiting the cumulative amount of time childless adults can be covered by Medicaid to four years. Recipients who have reached the maximum will lose benefits for six months, but they could re-enroll after that. It would apply to adults ages 19-49 and not to people who work or participate in employment training programs for at least 80 hours a month. It also excludes full-time students and individuals with disabilities.

— Imposing new monthly premiums for childless adults from $1 to $10 based on their income.

— Requiring childless adults to complete an annual health risk assessment, but failure to do it would not result in being kicked off the program.

— Requiring an $8 copayment for going to a hospital emergency room the first time and $25 for each subsequent use in a 12-month period.

— Requiring most parents without custody of their children to pay their child support in order to receive food stamps. The proposal, affecting about 2,150 people, would reverse a change made in 2007.

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