Gov. Scott Walker said Wednesday his plan to tighten restrictions for childless adults on Medicaid will prepare recipients for the workforce.
Walker made the comments at a campaign stop at Pratt Industries in Beloit. They came after the Trump administration approved most of Walker’s BadgerCare Plus, or Medicaid, reforms Wednesday.
The new policies implement $8 monthly premiums and co-pays for childless adults at or below the poverty level. They also require eligible recipients to complete a health risk assessment and cap the program at four years unless the recipient has a job, is in a worker training program or is involved in community engagement.
“We’re not making it harder to get benefits. We’re making it easier to get a job,” Walker told reporters. “Eight dollars a month is not too much to ask someone to pay. It’s getting them ready for the workforce. You ask employers all over the state. They’re ready to hire people right now.”
The state initially proposed a requirement that eligible adults undergo drug screening, but the Trump administration rejected that proposal Wednesday.
Wisconsin would have been the first state to have such a requirement as a condition of eligibility, according to The Associated Press.
Walker shook off the federal government’s opposition to the drug-screening requirement. He said the health risk assessment will allow the state to ask questions about drug addiction, smoking and high blood pressure, and doing so will help recipients get proper care.
Wednesday’s approval makes Wisconsin the fourth state to require childless adults who qualify for Medicaid to get jobs, according to a letter from Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Other states with similar requirements are Indiana, Arkansas and New Hampshire.
When asked if the new requirements will help Medicaid recipients find jobs and enter the workforce, Walker said, “Absolutely.”
“All of you in the media, I presume, pay some sort of premiums for your health care. That’s not a barrier. … It’s a reasonable step to get someone ready to enter the workforce,” he said.
“This is about moving from government dependence. My opponent and others want people dependent on the government. I want to move people to true independence.”
Walker, a two-term Republican governor, is facing state schools Superintendent Tony Evers, a Democrat, in a highly contested election Tuesday. Walker has consistently pointed to the state’s job growth as one of his centerpiece achievements.
The Evers campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Before speaking to reporters, Walker spoke for nearly 13 minutes to about 60 supporters and Pratt workers.
He asked the crowd to vote for him and find nine more people to do the same because “this election is going to be so close, and every vote will count.”
Earlier Wednesday, the Marquette University Law School Poll showed the governor’s race in a dead heat, with each candidate at 47 percent. Those results—in the law school’s last poll before the election—mirror other polls throughout the campaign that have shown the candidates neck and neck.
Walker will kick off a four-day bus tour today with House Speaker Paul Ryan in Waukesha.