U.S. Senate candidate Matt Bevin (R-Ky), speaks to a gathering at FreePAC Kentucky, Saturday, April 5, 2014, at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville, Ky.
Timothy D. Easley/AP Photo

Drug tests for Medicare recipients?

In recent years, a growing number of Republican officials, especially at the state level, have pushed drug-testing programs for Americans on “welfare.” The idea is predicated on an unfortunate assumption: if you’re struggling and need to rely on a safety net, the government should suspect you of drug addiction and check your bodily fluids.
The drug-testing programs have, in general, been a costly and pointless disaster. But in Kentucky, Republican gubernatorial hopeful Matt Bevin has expressed support for expanding drug testing to include senior citizens on Medicare.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reported yesterday on the latest debate between Bevin, who has never held public office, and state Attorney General Jack Conway (D).
…Conway asked Bevin about his statement from April that recipients of Medicaid and Medicare should be drug-tested.
In April, Bevin said during a Louisville Tea Party forum that he supports random drug testing for recipients of both programs. “I firmly believe we frankly should drug test people that are on Medicaid and Medicare,” Bevin said at the time. “We just should.”
During Tuesday night’s debate, Bevin didn’t back away from that call, saying “there should be expectation of you as somebody who is a recipient, or, as it’s often referred to in this state, on the draw.”
After the debate, Bevin said he was referring to Medicaid beneficiaries, suggesting the GOP candidate is more comfortable going after low-income families than seniors. I’ll concede that I did not see the debate, but the Lexington Herald-Leader’s article added that Conway “interrupted Bevin to make clear that he was asking about Medicare and not Medicaid.”
Bevin responded, “Understood.”
Incidentally, let’s not overlook the fact that Bevin called for drug testing seniors at an event co-sponsored by the AARP.
For the record, it’s difficult to even imagine a coherent defense for subjecting Medicare recipients to drug tests. American workers pay into the Medicare system for much of their lives, so it hardly seems fair to characterize them as “on the draw.”
A Bevin spokesperson insisted yesterday that when the gubernatorial candidate endorsed drug testing for Medicare recipients, it was “a misstatement.”
Election Day in Kentucky is now 26 days away. Though polls show a very competitive contest, last week, the Republican Governors Association scaled back its investment in the race, suggesting RGA officials lack confidence in Bevin’s chances.