Gov. Scott Walker’s provisions to BadgerCare are supposed to relieve taxpayers, but experts worry all the provisions will do is drive people off of BadgerCare.
Walker submitted a waiver to the federal government Monday that outlined new provisions to BadgerCare. Under the proposal, BadgerCare coverage for drug addiction treatment would be limited and premiums may increase, Citizen Action Wisconsin executive director Robert Kraig said.
BadgerCare provides health care coverage for low-income Wisconsin residents and services such as dental care, mental health treatment and prescription drugs. The co-pay ranges from $0.50 to $3 and costs Wisconsin residents about $1,000 a year.
The provisions laid out in Walker’s proposal will mostly affect individuals with diagnosed substance abuse and low-income families, Kraig said.
Wisconsin Council on Children and Families research director Jon Peacock said his main concern is charging premiums to childless adults who have BadgerCare. Small increases in premiums could cause individuals to lose their health care because they can no longer afford it.
Peacock said the requested waiver will impede Wisconsin’s overall goal to expand Wisconsin’s workforce, eliminate the coverage gap in our state’s health care system and cut the number of uninsured people.
“The premium requirement will only hurt those low-income adults, so will ultimately result in a less healthy workforce,” Peacock said.
The provision is also likely to cut off resources for those with substance abuse diagnoses. It puts in place a 48 month limit on care for those with diagnosed substance abuse and individuals won’t receive support from BadgerCare after this limit.
The policy will have a forced screening and testing program for individuals under BadgerCare who suffer from substance abuse, said Rich Brown, substance use prevention expert and founder of Wisconsin Initiative to Promote Healthy Lifestyle in the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine.
But conducting mass drug screenings would be no small feat, Brown said. If done incorrectly, the state could expect a series of lawsuits.
Drug screening is a “complicated process” that includes false positives and multiple tests to get the most accurate result, Brown said.
“If the purpose of this policy is to sustainably discourage people from drug use, then the policy is doomed to fail,” Brown said. “Most drug users can simply quit for a few days before scheduled drug tests.”
But, the people who can’t control their addiction for a few days will need more than the 48 month limit and will need extensive addiction treatment, Brown said. Wisconsin already has many people on a waitlist for such treatment. The longer people wait, the chance they will get treatment decreases.
“From a political standpoint [the provision] falls back on stereotypes people have about BadgerCare and what drug abuse and what drug addiction is,” Kraig said.
The $48 million being proposed for drug testing under Walker’s provision would much better serve to expand drug treatment programs, Kraig said.
The provision is meant to save taxpayer money, Brown said. But, the uninsured will still be in hospitals and hospitals are required to treat these patients. Commercial insurance will then be billed, so there will be higher health insurance premiums.
Certified recovery coach Jesse Heffernan said Walker’s policy would turn away people that need insurance the most and would perpetuate the negative stigma of drug addiction.
“Asking someone who already carries some burden with them, whether it’s substance abuse, mental health issues or trauma, we’re asking them to go out and [seek help] without being there with them,” Heffernan said.
The full provision will be released Wednesday. After that, the public will have 30 days to comment.