Bills would mandate drug testing for MaineCare enrollees

By Meg Haskell, BDN Staff
Posted April 25, 2011, at 7:17 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Republican lawmakers Monday introduced two proposals that would impose mandatory — and possibly unconstitutional — drug testing on Maine residents who are enrolled in MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program for low-income and disabled residents.

The first bill, sponsored by Sen. Thomas Saviello, R-Wilton, would require the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to randomly test MaineCare recipients and suspend all benefits for those who test positive for illegal drugs. Benefits would be reinstated if subsequent testing is negative for illegal drugs.

The second bill would require the department to develop a program for testing MaineCare recipients who have prescriptions for certain scheduled drugs to be tested periodically “to ensure they are taking the prescribed scheduled drugs.”

Scheduled drugs include most painkillers, antidepressants and antipsychotic medications. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Richard Cebra, R-Naples.

Neither lawmaker returned calls Monday seeking details or clarification of their intent.

The bills were presented in public hearings before the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee.

Both measures drew strong opposition from a broad group of treatment and advocacy organizations, including the Maine Medical Association, the Maine Primary Care Association, Maine Equal Justice Partners and the Maine chapter of the American Association of Social Workers.

“MaineCare patients should not be singled out,” said Maine Medical Association executive vice president Gordon Smith, speaking specifically to the proposal to randomly test for illegal drugs. “Addiction is an illness and we treat it as an illness. It is difficult for people and I don’t think we should make it more difficult for them.”

Shenna Bellows, executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, said it is unlikely either bill would survive a challenge based on its constitutionality. While private companies are permitted in some circumstances to test employees for drug use in order to protect public safety, a public program such as MaineCare is held to a different standard under Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful search and seizure, Bellows said.

Work sessions for the two measures will be held at 9 a.m. Monday, May 2. Audio broadcast of the session may be monitored online at http://www.maine.gov/legis/.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/04/25/health/bills-would-mandate-drug-testing-for-mainecare-enrollees/ printed on August 21, 2014