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Walker Officially Asks for Medicaid Changes

Thursday, June 15, 2017  
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June 8, Wisconsin Health News 

Gov. Scott Walker's Department of Health Services officially asked the federal government Wednesday to allow Wisconsin to become the first state to drug screen adult Medicaid enrollees without children. The waiver amendment also caps eligibility, imposes work requirements and charges premiums to members living below the poverty line.

DHS pared back some of the changes after receiving more than 1,000 pages of comments on the proposal.

That includes shrinking the income tiers for premiums from four tiers to two and not making anyone under 50 percent of the poverty level pay premiums. Childless adults with household incomes between 51 percent and 100 percent of the poverty level would pay $8 a month. Walker originally proposed a range of $1 a month to $10 a month for members making between 21 percent of the poverty level and 100 percent. DHS is also considering a grace period of 12 months for members that miss a payment.

In addition, the application decreases a copay for subsequent visits to the emergency room. And members who skip a drug screening can sign back up for coverage as soon as they consent to treatment, instead of waiting six months.

Walker called the application "a step in the right direction." "We're continuing to build on Wisconsin's legacy as a leader in welfare reform," he said in a statement Wednesday.

Jon Peacock, research director for the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, said the latest changes to the proposal were "modest improvements." But they don't "change the basic problem that the waiver would add new barriers to BadgerCare participation that increase administrative costs and keep people from getting the care they need."

Last month, the state's budget committee voted to require that the panel approve the waiver amendment before it's implemented. At a Wisconsin Health News event Monday, Joint Finance Co-Chair Rep. John Nyrgen, R-Marinette, said he overall supported Walker's plan, but "there's still a lot of unanswered questions in the proposal." "For us to feel comfortable that we're moving in the right direction, we believe the proposal should come back to Joint Finance and we have the opportunity to vote it up or down," he said.