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Walker says no to Medicaid expansion, no to ‘generational dependence’

By   /   February 13, 2013  /   14 Comments

By Ryan Ekvall | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON – Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday announced he will reject federal Medicaid expansion in Wisconsin, instead reforming the state’s program to move hundreds of thousands of uninsured Wisconsinites to private insurance and the federal health care exchange established under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Turning down some $4 billion from the federal government, Walker says, is part of his plan to wean Wisconsin residents off of what he called “generational dependence on government.”

Under Walker’s proposal, 224,580 currently uninsured Wisconsinites would obtain health insurance, according to the governor.

Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday announced he will turn down federal money for Medicaid expansion.

“With these Medicaid reforms, we will preserve an essential safety net for our neediest, while protecting our state’s taxpayers from uncertainty,” Walker said at the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Business Day at Monona Terrace in Madison. WMC is the state’s largest business lobby.

The governor plans to reduce the qualifying threshold for Wisconsin’s BadgerCare Plus program, moving others currently on the program to the federal exchange or private health care. The federal poverty level for an individual is currently $11,490 and for a family of four it is $23,550.

Individuals earning up to $22,980 and families earning up to $47,100 would qualify for the federal exchange.

While Walker turned down the federal expansion of Medicaid in the state, Wisconsin taxpayers will still pick up some of the tab at the federal level for states that do accept Obama’s billions, as well as the Wisconsinites Walker would force into the exchanges.

But Walker said his plan was a way to escape the “pigeon hole” the federal government put the state in. Under the ACA mandate, 90,691 more Wisconsinites would qualify for Medicaid and 161,987 would move to the private market or the federal exchange. That would provide about 28,000 more people with health insurance in Wisconsin than Walker’s plan.

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. Walker was among a handful of conservative governors considering opting out of the federally-backed Medicaid expansion. Some hardcore conservatives, like Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, decided to take the money.

Had Walker accepted the Medicaid expansion cash, Wisconsin would be on the hook for $205 million between 2014-19, according to an 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.

Referring to PowerPoint slides of the nation’s $16.5 trillion debt, Walker said he didn’t trust the federal government to pay for the program in the long term.

Indeed, the federal government has decreased Medicaid matching funds by $1.33 billion in the past few years. Last budget cycle, Walker injected $1.24 billion into the state’s Medicaid program. Walker plans to increase Medicaid spending again by $645 million this budget cycle.

Democrats insisted Walker was turning down a bargain.

Throwing rhetorical bombs worthy of MSNBC talk show hosts, Assembly minority leader Peter Barca complained that, “Saying yes should have been the easiest budget decision Gov. Walker had to make.  Instead, he placed support from right-wing extremists before the needs of Wisconsin taxpayers, vulnerable citizens and unemployed job seekers.”

Walker said his plan would affect only nondisabled adults between the ages 19 and 64. Nearly 230,000, or 47 percent of currently uninsured Wisconsinites in that category would move to the federal exchange, resulting in a reduction of 5,417 from Wisconsin’s Medicaid rolls and 224,580 uninsured adults.

Nearly 1.2 million Wisconsinites are currently enrolled in a BadgerCare program, the state’s version of Medicaid. The state spends about $3 billion a year for Medicaid, while the federal government picks up more than $4 billion.

Contact Ekvall at rekvall@wisconsinreporter.com

Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday announces the state will not take federal money to expand Medicare.

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Kittle is a 25-year veteran of radio, newspaper and online journalism. In July 2011, Kittle joined Watchdog.org as bureau chief for Wisconsin Reporter. He has spent much of the past three years covering the seismic political changes taking place in the Badger State. Last year, Kittle joined Watchdog’s national reporting team, covering everything from energy policy to governmental assaults on civil rights. Beyond being published in Wisconsin’s daily newspapers and in multimedia news outlets, Kittle’s work has appeared on Fox News, and in Human Events, Reason Magazine, Newsmax and Town Hall. His special investigation into a politically charged John Doe probe, “Wisconsin’s Secret War,” was the basis of a 2014 documentary on Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze. Kittle has made several appearances on Fox News, including “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren. He serves as weekly politics commentator for Lake 96.1 FM in Lake Geneva, and WRJN-AM 1400 in Racine. His resume includes multiple awards for journalism excellence from The Associated Press, Inland Press, Wisconsin Broadcast Association and other journalism associations. Contact Kittle at mkittle@watchdog.org.

  • Jack Lohman

    I’ve said before, Walker is not 100% wrong. But he is on turning down this Medicaid assistance. He’d rather spend money on mining, where the companies give cash bribes to his campaign.

    There *IS* abuse on both ends of the spectrum, but it is a lot easier to tolerate it by contributors.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=742330448 Mary Mckinnon

    Good. I do not pretend to understand all the ramifications of this, but maintaining independence from a runaway federal government is always a good thing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/munson74 David Munson

    Yeah, mining brings jobs, and revenue for the State by producing something; instead of just cranking up the printing presses to “produce money”. Don’t you just hate those job producing, revenue enhancing solutions to our fiscal problems??!!

  • markg8

    He’s going to kick people off Badgercare and make them buy insurance on the exchange that he’s letting HHS set up for him? That means employers are going to have to pay more to employees so they can buy private insurance (at least the part the federal government doesn’t cover). His silly ideology is getting in the way of creating jobs and will cost employers, employees and WI taxpayers more money. I don’t live in WI so it doesn’t bother me. Wisconsinites are still paying the taxes for it, they’re just not getting the benefits which will now go to subsidize other states.

  • Hilly

    If he were to take the money, the Federal Govt would keep backing off the amount they give each year, and that would require the citizens to pay more and more taxes to cover the bill each year.

    There is also nothing wrong about a mine that would employ a LOT of people.

  • Jack Lohman

    Only if it also poisons my well water.

  • politiwatch

    can you not read? Under Walker’s proposal, 224,580 currently uninsured Wisconsinites would obtain health insurance, according to the governor.

    Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday announced he will turn down federal money for Medicaid expansion.

    “With these Medicaid reforms, we will preserve an essential safety net for our neediest, while protecting our state’s taxpayers from uncertainty,” Walker said.

  • SturJen

    I’m one of those people who fall through the cracks: I have no dependents, so I don’t qualify for Badgercare but I am too young for Medicare. This is good news for me, as I can get *some* kind of insurance to cover me until I get a job. There are some worries as to what kind of insurance/care I would get on a federal exchange, but at least I can see a doctor if something catastrophic happens. Otherwise, I will keep on eating healthy, exercising and washing my hands!

  • Jack Lohman

    David, I am not so dense that I shun revenue-producing jobs, UNLESS they also poison my well and the state’s environment. And we just don’t know, because the politicians calling the shots have all been taking cash dollars from the industry. I’d be tickled pink if the mining won out AFTER an unbiased look by non-conflicted scientists and politicians.

  • markg8

    I can read just fine thanks. In order to reject federal Medicaid expansion in Wisconsin under Obamacare Walker is going to slash spending on Medicaid (Badgercare) to move hundreds of thousands of
    uninsured Wisconsinites into private insurance and the federal health care
    exchange under Obamacare. He better hope the exchange brings down the cost of insurance a LOT and employers offer more money to those they hire or he’s going to have a lot more angry Wisconsinsites on his hands.

  • markg8

    The federal government covers 100% of the Medicaid expansion cost from 2014-2019 and 90% after that. It’s right there in the law Obama signed. Of course Walker won’t have to worry about that 10% because he’s going to create 250,000 good paying jobs with health care benefits by the end of his term isn’t he? Yeah right.

  • Hilly

    We need jobs more than we need government hand outs. If we had more jobs, we’d need less government “free” stuff.

  • mortisha51

    good job Walker! When I had kids we paid for insurance. Could we afford it? Not really but we did. I didn’t work so we did without. We did not whine that we had a RIGHT to a big screan tv, new car or fancy house. We made due with what we had and were proud that we did it ourselves.

  • markg8

    Walker is going to ship jobs to other states with this move.

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