Legislature to reject work requirements for parents, wants final say on drug tests

Republican plan on Medicaid debated Thursday

MADISON, Wis. - Republican lawmakers plan to reject a call by the governor to require job training for all parents who receive food stamps.

Gov. Scott Walker had proposed the change as part of his two-year state budget, costing more than $30 million over two years. Republican leaders on the Legislature's budget-writing committee introduced late Thursday their own changes to the Department of Health Services and Medicaid budget, and proposed to delete that provision.

Instead, the committee will authorize a pilot program in two parts of the state to require the job training only for parents of children over the age of 6. Currently, able-bodied adults without children are required to be in a job training program or work a minimum number of hours a month to receive FoodShare benefits.   

The Republican plan would also say the finance committee should get the final say on Walker's plans to drug-test some able-bodied Medicaid applicants and food stamp recipients.

The proposal would require signoff by the panel before the requirements could take effect as Walker wants in April 2019. Walker is preparing a waiver request with the federal government to proceed.

If approved, Wisconsin would be the first state to drug-test childless adults who are applying for Medicaid.

Democrats proposed cutting those items out of the budget, but don't have enough votes to block any of the proposals.

The health services budget plan also funds an increase in rates for nursing homes and personal care workers.  The plan would increase by 4 percent the rates paid to personal care workers, who provide services for the elderly and disabled. Their rate hasn't been increase since 2008 and industry advocates were asking for a 15-percent increase.

The Republican plan also finds funding for 19 dementia care specialist positions in the state, who help navigate the system for patients and caregivers for those with dementia and Alzheimer's disease. The governor's budget had eliminated those positions. The budget plan would expand those positions to 24 by 2018.

The committee approved Walker's plans on a 12-4 vote, with all Republicans in support and Democrats against. It's now a part of the state budget that the full Legislature will vote on later this summer.

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