Undeterred by lawsuits, federal court rulings, and widespread moral outrage over its efforts to strip life-saving healthcare from tens of thousands of vulnerable Americans, the Trump administration is reportedly planning to sign off on yet another flurry of waivers that would allow Republican governors like Wisconsin's Scott Walker to impose deeply cruel work requirements and other punitive restrictions on Medicaid recipients.
"If you're poor or disabled, the GOP wants you to die," actor and democratic socialist Rob Delaney wrote in response to a new Politico's report late Thursday detailing the Trump administration's plan to approve a "new round" of Medicaid restrictions in Maine, Arizona, and Wisconsin.
— rob delaney (@robdelaney) August 17, 2018
"One of the most controversial changes sought by the states is Wisconsin's attempt to drug test its Medicaid applicants—an effort that advocates and lawyers say is illegal," Politico reported, noting that Walker has been relentlessly pushing to drug test Medicaid and food stamp recipients for years.
While the White House isn't likely to approve Walker's full plan to drug test every Medicaid applicant and recipient due to legal barriers, "Wisconsin is expected to win approval to ask applicants to disclose on their Medicaid applications whether they've used drugs or are in recovery, but won't make coverage decisions based on the answers provided," Politico notes.
"The Trump administration seems intent on moving as quickly as possible to approve these harmful waivers which will clearly result in many more thousands of vulnerable people losing their Medicaid coverage."
—Joan Alker, Georgetown University
But, according to Joan Alker—head of Georgetown University's Center for Children and Families—the very presence of such a question on a state Medicaid application could scare addicts and recovering addicts who badly need medical coverage.
"If people hear there's a drug testing requirement, that might be a deterrent from even applying," Alker noted. "The Trump administration seems intent on moving as quickly as possible to approve these harmful waivers which will clearly result in many more thousands of vulnerable people losing their Medicaid coverage."
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While conservatives often frame their push for punitive work requirements and drug testing as an effort to control Medicaid costs, such restrictions have repeatedly proven to be less cost-effective and more bureaucratic than the current system, leading advocates for Medicaid expansion to conclude that the GOP's only true objective is to demonize the poor as lazy moochers and kick people off their healthcare.
Though the Republicans have proved more successful in recent years, efforts to foist drug tests on rich people in order to secure very large and unearned tax giveaways have so far failed:
— The Hill (@thehill) June 16, 2016
Calling the right-wing notion that Medicaid recipients are lazy the "fundamental lie of work requirements," Splinter's Libby Watson pointed to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study that showed "nearly 8 in 10 Medicaid enrollees have at least one family member who is working and a majority work themselves." The vast majority of those who don't work are either disabled or caretakers, the analysis found.
"Threatening poor people's lives—which is what getting rid of their healthcare coverage essentially means—is not a way to eradicate poverty, or increase employment, or improve anyone’s lives. It is not, whatever they tell you, about self-reliance or dignity," Watson concluded. "It is simply a way to punish the poor for being poor, and an ideological commitment to being as grotesque as possible."
The Trump administration's latest effort to take healthcare from poor Americans comes just weeks after a federal court blocked Kentucky's Medicaid work requirements from taking effect. In his June ruling, District Judge James Boasberg concluded that the Trump administration's approval of Kentucky's punitive rules was "arbitrary and capricious."
And as Reuters reported on Tuesday, three advocacy groups are currently suing the Trump White House over its approval of Arkansas' Medicaid work requirements, which have been described as among the harshest in the nation.