County leaders call for reversal of Walker’s refusal of federal healthcare funds

By Lynda L. Jones

Following Governor Walker’s rejection of billions in federal Medicaid funds to fill the holes in BadgerCare, county elected officials from five counties spoke out this week during a media call.

The leaders are calling on the legislature to overturn the decision by Governor Walker to reject billions in federal funds to improve our state’s health system.

Leaders at the county level, aware of the benefit to their home districts, understand that accepting federal Medicaid funds at the state level under the Affordable Care Act is the best deal for their counties. However, if the Legislature does not reverse Walker’s decision, the Governor should as an alternative partner with Wisconsin counties that want to receive federal Medicaid funds to extend health coverage.

During the call seven county supervisors from across the state including Milwaukee County Supervisor David Bowen expressed how the impact of this decision by the governor will put an extreme hardship on the elderly, middle, and the poor in their districts.

The supervisors feel that Walker’s decision to reject these funds are purely political and not representing of a public policy decision. And in the event that the state legislature fails to overturn this decision, they are asking that an alternative plan should be allowed.

That plan would mean again, the cooperation of the governor and state legislature to at the very least work with the elected supervisors in 20 counties to accept the money for themselves.

Supervisor Ken Hall of Racine, WI spoke on how essential these healthcare funds are for his constituents in Racine.

“The governor and the state legislature must look at why Wisconsin is already number 46 out of 50 states in bringing home federal dollars.

States like Minnesota, Illinois and even Indiana are ahead of our state. And this also plays a major role in why this state is number 42 in reversing job loss.”

These county leaders are determined to allow the voices and pleas of their constituencies to be heard. Several Republican Governors from across the nation are deciding to choose people above politics on this issue. Even New Jersey GOP Governor Chris Christie’s budget address last month highlighted how accepting the federal funds was “the smart thing to do for our fiscal and public health” and that “refusing these federal dollars does not mean that they won’t be spent. It just means that they will be used to expand health care access in New York, Connecticut, Ohio or somewhere else”.

Governor Walker’s move, if not reversed by the Legislature, will cost Wisconsin over five times more by 2020 to cover fewer people. If Wisconsin accepts the federal Medicaid funds like New Jersey, over the next decade over 200,000 more Wisconsinites would have access to BadgerCare. By accepting the federal revenue Wisconsin would save $58 million this budget alone and exponentially more through the next decade. Not doing so threatens jobs and lives.

USAction program director Alan Charney noted that besides Christie, Republican governors embraced by the Tea Party have moved to accept new federal Medicaid dollars provided by ObamaCare for their citizens, including Jan Brewer of Arizona, Rick Scott of Florida and John Kaisch of Ohio. “These governors are doing right by their states,” Charney said. “In contrast, Gov. Scott Walker is doing wrong by the people of Wisconsin. The real question – given the critical importance of health care, job creation and economic security for Wisconsinites–is whether there is any value, any ideal, or any principle that Walker won’t ignore in order to raise campaign dollars from wealthy CEOs?”

“Accepting federal funds would have created over 10,000 jobs in our health sector and beyond. Walker will instead deny thousands more the freedom to make their own health and economic decisions by denying them affordable health coverage,” said Kevin Kane, Healthcare Organizer at Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “Walker’s decision is clearly politics, not good policy, and it is a level of callousness that not even Chris Christie could show.”

“It’s like Gov Walker didn’t even consider the human impact of his decision,” said Jamecca Cohee, a mother and a homecare worker in Milwaukee. “My job doesn’t offer health care, so my children and I rely on BadgerCare. My son requires medications and I suffer from high blood pressure issues. With Walker kicking parents like me off of BadgerCare, how are we supposed to live our lives? Especially when, without care, we’ll have to worry about critical and possibly life-threatening complications from my condition.”

Federal Medicaid funds for BadgerCare can be accepted at any time, throughout this budget process and even after. If Wisconsin at any point allocated it, federal funds would immediately be directed to BadgerCare.