Joint Finance Rejects Federal Money to Expand Medicaid

Jun 4, 2013

Republican budget leaders are sticking with Gov. Walker’s plan for BadgerCare.

The Legislature's budget panel Tuesday rejected federal money to fully expand Medicaid programs in Wisconsin.
Credit Ann Althouse, Flickr

It’s the state’s Medicaid program for low-income residents.

The Legislature’s Joint Finance committee voted along party lines Tuesday to reject federal money to expand the program. Instead, Wisconsin would move thousands of residents into the private marketplace.

Under the Republican plan, Wisconsin would offer BadgerCare to residents earning up to 100 percent of the poverty level. Right now, the state covers families living at up to 200 percent.

Wisconsin would refer those no longer eligible, to the private marketplace; the federal Affordable Care Act promises to provide subsidies. Republican Sen. Mary Lazich says everyone should then have access.

“I think what’s very appealing about the governor’s proposal is that at the end of the day everyone has coverage. Nobody gets kicked off of coverage. If they’re 100 percent or less, they’ll be on MA, if they’re 100 percent or greater, they’ll be over in the exchange,” Lazich says.

Lazich notes that the governor’s proposal will accept poor, childless adults into BadgerCare. Currently, they’re excluded. All four Democrats on the panel took turns blasting the plan. Rep. Jon Richards says Wisconsin could save millions of dollars, if it accepted the federal money – in exchange for covering people up to 133% of the poverty line.

“At a time when we’re talking about funding our schools, we’re having a hard time funding roads, doing a whole range of things we’ve talked about in this committee, how we can turn back $120 million is just mind blowing,” Richards says.

Fellow Democrat Corey Mason of Racine also questioned the fiscal wisdom of turning down $120 million federal dollars, while also cutting 85,000 people off BadgerCare.

“That’s not the Wisconsin I know. That doesn’t reflect the values that most of our citizens share,” Mason says.

Several people in the audience cheered after Mason spoke and heckled Republicans. Capitol police escorted a couple protesters from the room. Despite criticism, GOP Rep. Pat Strachota touted the plan - calling it a way to encourage independence.

“It’s going to provide opportunities for individuals to enter into the health care market the same way that you and I do. We purchase our plans and we are able to sustain those purchases,” Strachota says.

The 12 Republicans on the budget committee did approve an amendment to the governor’s plan. It would allow some people to remain on BadgerCare, if their county does not have a federal health exchange operating by October. The panel also voted to pay hospitals up to $73 million over the two-year budget, for care they provide for uninsured patients.