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Alabama Bill Would Drug Test Medicaid Recipients

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #697)
Consequences of Prohibition
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

Lawmakers in Alabama are pushing the envelope on the drug testing of people who receive public benefits. While legislators in a number of states have targeted welfare or unemployment recipients for drug testing, a bill in Montgomery would require drug testing of Medicaid recipients.

Poor Alabamians who use drugs would be ineligible for Medicaid under a proposed law. (image via Wikimedia)
Distinct from Medicare, the federal program aimed at senior citizens, Medicaid is run by the individual states and is designed to make health care accessible for low-income people who are blind or disabled. It also covers low-income pregnant women, children, seniors, and people residing in nursing homes.

Pre-filed by state Sen. Dick Brewbaker (R-Montgomery), Senate Bill 26, also known as the Patient Accountability and Personal Responsibility Act, would require that Medicaid recipients undergo random suspicionless drug tests at least once each year and that new applicants undergo a drug test before deemed eligible for Medicaid benefits. The cost of the drug tests would be added to recipients' premiums (e.g. poor people will have to pay for the drug tests).

People who fail to take a drug test or test positive would be denied Medicaid benefits. There is no provision for treatment, but those who are thrown off the rolls could be reinstated if they pass another drug test a year later. The drug test results could  not be used in any criminal proceedings "without the consent of the person tested."

The bill would not apply to nursing home residents, prisoners, people in mental hospitals or those in other long-term care facilities.

Lawmakers favoring the bill claimed the number of illegal drug users getting state-funded health care has "skyrocketed" in recent years, with the cost estimated at "unknown millions." State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) told WHNT News the proposed law would save taxpayer money while forcing accountability on Medicaid recipients.

"If you want to use drugs and you want the taxpayers to pick up the tab on your health care, if this bill passes, forget about it," said Senator Orr. "If I'm going to use illegal drugs that are going to hurt myself, why ask taxpayers to fund my medical care?"

Random suspicionless drug testing for welfare recipients and state employees have been struck down by various state and federal courts as violating the right to be free of unwarranted searches, although a new Florida welfare drug testing law has yet to be challenged. Lawmakers told WHNT News they thought the Alabama bill is more legally sound because it only deals with public health programs, and if the bill ever becomes law, they are likely to find out in the courts if their legal theory is correct.

SB 26 has passed a first reading and has been assigned to the Senate Health Committee.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


sicntired (not verified)

In reply to by KeLeMi (not verified)

Urinalysis,although something that should never be forced on any medical patient,can detect any drug they care to look for with the possible exception of Fentanyl.Ask anyone on a methadone program what drugs they have been called out for using and the list could include anything they are currently screening for.The machines are incredibly sensitive and can be programmed to look for just about any drug they want to look for.

Tue, 08/16/2011 - 12:17am Permalink
Anonymous123 (not verified)

In reply to by KeLeMi (not verified)

Urine tests do detect crack and other drugs if administered shortly after use. I agree with the testing but if the recipients are aware that they will be testing then they will more than likely stop the usage in enough time for it not to be detected. Instead of urine one time they should do a hair follicle once every 6 months (and be willing to deduct the cost of the test from the benefits). THAT WOULD BE WONDERFUL!!!!!!

Tue, 08/16/2011 - 3:41pm Permalink
undrgrndgirl (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous123 (not verified)

really? blech, people like you make me sick...i hope you need assistance some day but don't get any.

Fri, 08/19/2011 - 8:48pm Permalink
disgusted (not verified)

Here is the problem. People on Medicaid in Alabama can not afford health benefits because of either low or no income usually accompanied by poor health. Let's say it passes, OK recipient goes to ER (already over run and abused) with no insurance. Treatment is given and patient leaves hospital. Bill is sent to patient and they have no chance of paying bill. Cost is absorbed by hospital. What I am saying is that you and I will be paying the bill for those who can not pay. This is a swatting at flies attempt to make the taxpayers of Alabama, of which I am one, believe the legislature is fighting to save money. Wrong, all it will do is add a cost of drug testing to an already overloaded state government. We need to educate and treat those who need help. Prohibition of a substance has not, can not, and will not work. Jails across the country are over run with drugs and the dope sniffing dogs are in the schools. What a joke. How in the world can anyone believe drug suppression works. Unless you are for the black market, which many surprisingly are, you can not be for this perverted system we live under. 

"The government's line is that the use of marihuana leads to more dangerous drugs. The fact is that the lack of marihuana leads to dangerous drugs." - Dr. David Smith of the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic

Mon, 08/15/2011 - 10:24am Permalink
Doobie (not verified)

In reply to by w (not verified)

You are right. I live in this damn screwed up oppressive state. You have no rights here. Alabama is a police state. You only get the amount of justice that you can afford to buy. People living here who are on Medicaid and receive only a small amount for food stamps, always have to spend money from a small Social Security check to buy food  to eat for the whole month. On the months they are forced to take the drug test and pay for them, they have to go hungry for part of the month to pay for the drug test. Don't move here if you are a senior or disabled. You may find it hard to save enough money to leave.  

Mon, 02/09/2015 - 2:22pm Permalink

Here is an LTE i have just submitted on this topic.

SB 26 sponsored by Senator Dick Brewbaker (R- Montgomery) would require drug testing for anyone receiving Medicaid. I'm sure the first thing that many people think when they hear about this bill is "Why, that there's a good idea". But, is it really?

First, I would like to see a comprehensive study which shows that the Medicaid program is being abused so badly by drug users that such a bill is justified. Does one exist? If not, then where is the data coming from to justify this bill?

Second, this bill won't save money. When someone on Medicaid goes for treatment much lower rates are charged. When someone without Medicaid goes for treatment the cost is much higher. With or without Medicaid people will still go to the ER. The ER can't turn anyone away, so instead of Medicaid paying the much lower bill the hospital will be stuck with the much larger bill. That is passed on in the form of higher healthcare costs.

In these times where many Alabamians have lost their healthcare coverage Senator Brewbaker's time would be better spent trying to bring jobs to Alabama instead of trying to figure out ways to crush the 4th Amendment rights granted to everyone, including poor people who cannot afford healthcare coverage. If anyone in this state should be drug tested it's elected officials. They pass the laws that the rest of us have to adhere to. So, you first Senator Brewbaker. I'll supply the cup but he's paying for the test.

Wed, 08/24/2011 - 6:14pm Permalink
wowthecrowd (not verified)

I think these people, like the Governors, should have to submit to drug testing, after all we are paying their wages also, what's the difference? So, why isn't this being brought up by someone? well, I'll tell you why. The reason why the Governors and legislators dont have to take urine testing is because they think they are better than the people on benefits. Well, it's a benefit to be a Governor or a legislator isn't it? Most of them, "the govt body" that is, would fail and loose thier jobs that is why!! I think, if someone can ask someone else to pee in a cup, then they to should be made to,they are no better than the State that they govern. Pee in that cup mr. governor and allow it to be tested and allow your job to be up for grabs to someone else if you fail your test!!

Mon, 04/16/2012 - 11:13pm Permalink
wowthecrowd (not verified)

The samething that these people are trying to pass on to others, should be handed right back to them, in a urine sample! They're getting paid with tax payer money, so why not make them take a drug test, every month to get their"benefits'.

Mon, 04/16/2012 - 11:18pm Permalink
wowthecrowd (not verified)

The samething that these people are trying to pass on to others, should be handed right back to them, in a urine sample! They're getting paid with tax payer money, so why not make them take a drug test, ever month to get their"benefits'.

Mon, 04/16/2012 - 11:19pm Permalink

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