Politics & Government
1:00 am
Wed December 11, 2013

State Democrats Suggest Counties Apply Directly For Medicaid Expansion

Democrats want the state to allow counties to apply for federal Medicaid money directly.
Democrats want the state to allow counties to apply for federal Medicaid money directly.
Credit bcdixit

A Democratic state representative raised eyebrows Tuesday, when she suggested counties go it alone, when it comes to expanding Medicaid.

Earlier this year, Gov. Walker rejected federal money to expand Medicaid programs to all adults with incomes up to 133 percent of poverty.

He says Wisconsin can only afford to cover those living at or below the poverty line.

His plan means 80,000 people will become eligible while 77,000 lose coverage. They’re supposed to buy health insurance on the new federal exchange.

Assemblywoman Melissa Sargent’s plan would allow individual counties to apply directly to the federal government for Medicaid funding. Eighteen Wisconsin counties, including Milwaukee have passed resolutions supporting the idea.

Sargent says even though Republicans hold the majority in the Legislature and support the governor’s plan, they should favor her alternative for counties with sizeable numbers of poor adults.

“It’s honoring local control, and it’s something I hear from my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. Many have served on county boards so, I’m hopeful,” Sargent says.

Sargent says she’s begun circulating her bill for co-sponsors. One person who won’t sign is state Sen. Glenn Grothman of West Bend. He calls the idea “unheard of.”

“I’m aware of no other instance where individual counties deal with a federal government on a county by county basis, instead of doing something that in every other state is done statewide. It’s purely just a political gimmick,” Grothman says.

Democrat Melissa Sargent calls her bill a pilot.

While supporters say other states have given counties permission to deal directly with the federal government, she cites only one -- Cuyahoga County in Ohio.

It received a federal waiver to obtain Medicaid dollars, after Ohio's Legislature rejected funding to expand health coverage for low income residents.