By Ryan Ekvall and M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — Is Gov. Scott Walker prepared to bypass federally led Medicaid expansion plan for a middle-ground state-sponsored approach?
The answers to this question and more come your way Wednesday on the next episode of Walker Talks, the governor’s daily release of initiatives and proposals — with portion control.
On Tuesday, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, opened his office to Capitol reporters to, in part, talk about the rumors on Medicaid expansion in Wisconsin. To wit, will Walker or won’t Walker take federal money?
“I certainly am supportive of the idea of ensuring that we do not just become a delivery system for the federal government’s health care plan,” Vos said, expressing concern that the federal government might fund the program for a while, but down the road leave the state holding the bag.
“I want to maintain the maximum flexibility for the state,” Vos said on Medicaid expansion, adding Wisconsin could choose to opt-in at some point in the future after looking at the results of other state programs.
Christian Schneider, a blogger at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, reported that sources within Walker’s administration said the governor would lower eligibility requirements for some Medicaid standards, pushing some recipients to the federal exchange set up under the Affordable Care Act. Schneider reported that under Walker’s plan, 35,000 more individuals in the state would qualify for Medicaid.
Walker’s people weren’t talking about the governor’s proposal on Tuesday, only saying the governor would announce details on Wednesday.
The governor remains among a handful of Republican governor holdouts yet to decide whether their states will take federal money to expand Medicaid. The Badger State would collect about $1.4 billion over three years, according to the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, but eventually would have to pony up as much as 10 percent of the total cost of expansion.
Walker and fellow state Republicans have said they are reluctant to take money for a program that the state would, at least in part, have to pay for later. The governor earlier balked at state-created health care exchanges under the ACA, or Obamacare, as opponents call it, instead leaving it up to the federal government to set up the exchanges.
Wisconsin would be on the hook for $205 million between 2014-19, according to a new analysis by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, part of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. The federal government would pick up the remaining $4.25 billion during the period.
Supporters of federally led Medicaid expansion — Democrats, organized labor and community organizations, among others — are begging Walker to take the money.
“We know of no credible middle path that would result in guaranteeing coverage to low income Wisconsinites who currently fall between the cracks in the BadgerCare program (Wisconsin’s Medicaid program),” Robert Kraig, executive director of the liberal Citizen Action of Wisconsin, said in a statement.
Kraig asserts his group is concerned that spokespersons for the governor are trying to “prespin a decision that would have devastating consequences for the (health care) freedom and security of over 100,000 Wisconsinites.”
The Kaiser Commission notes “increases in state spending are small compared to increases in coverage and federal revenues and relative to what states would have spent if reform had not been enacted.”
Nationally, enrollment in low-income health care is expected to increase by 27.4 percent, according to the study.
While the state’s share of the overall cost may pale in comparison to the federal funding commitment, opponents of Medicaid expansion point out that the federal money still comes from Wisconsin taxpayers — and taxpayers throughout the United States — funding a plan that would massively increase the size and scope of government.
Vos told reporters he didn’t know what Walker’s plan was for Medicaid expansion, but that he was “confident Gov. Walker would make the right decision.”
Contact Ryan Ekvall at email@example.com