A state lawmaker wants to make it harder to defraud the Wisconsin Food Share and BadgerCare programs. Legislation from state Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette) would require the Department of Health Services to explore the financial viability of have photos added to cards used by those programs, along with plans to implement the requirement.
Nygren says he’s heard numerous stories about people selling cards from the food assistance program or lending out their Badger Care coverage. He says the feature would help make sure store clerks and clinic staff can check if the person using the card matches the picture.
The Food Share program is facing heavy scrutiny from lawmakers, after reports of widespread fraud in Milwaukee County. Nygren says he’s heard stories of people selling cards to buy drugs or even gamble, and there have also been such a high number of cards reported missing that there’s a good reason to be suspicious.
He’s also concerned about those lending out BadgerCare cards, saying it could put those individuals at risk of receiving medical treatment that could actually put their health at risk.
The proposal does face problems. Nygren admits cashiers sometimes don’t even check signatures on credit cards, so there’s no guarantee people will even match the photos with the person using the card. However, he says it should still act as a deterrent if there’s a chance someone will get caught.
Multiple people can currently be authorized to use a Food Share card, which could force changes in how they are issued. A federal waiver may also be needed, because federal law prohibits stores from treating those using food assistance programs any differently than someone paying with cash.
Nygren hopes to see swift action on the measure. He says it could even be included in the proposed state budget, which is currently working its way through the Joint Finance Committee.