Experts call federal budget argument against taking BadgerCare dollars false

David “Dave” Obey

On a media call this week state and national budget experts, including former chair of the US House Appropriations Committee Congressman Dave Obey, revealed that federal funding for Badger- Care is very secure, and much more certain than much of the $19.6 billion federal dollars in Governor Walker’s budget proposal.

Former Congressman Dave Obey joined Robert Kraig from Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Jon Peacock from the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and Jennifer Beason from Families USA.

Over 28 percent of Governor Walker’s budget comes from the federal government. Much of this money, including spending on transportation, education, corrections, and many social service programs is subject to the annual appropriations process, and must be approved by Congress each year.

Medicaid on the other hand is a mandatory appropriation which continues automatically except in the exceedingly unlikely event that a new law is passed by both houses and signed by the President. The enhanced BadgerCare money constitutes less than 5 percent of the federal dollars Walker is already taking in his two year budget plan.

Despite the fact that the enhanced dollars for BadgerCare under the health care reform law is much more secure than much of the federal money that comes to Wisconsin, one of the chief arguments offered by Governor Walker and his legislative allies for turning down the money is the alleged uncertainty of the funding.

“I’m amazed that the Governor’s budget would result in the state turning down more than $4 billion in federal funds”, said Dave Obey, former Wisconsin Congressman and former Chair of the Appropriations Committee. “If Wisconsin does that I never want to hear ever again any politician complain that Wisconsin not getting its fair share of federal dollars. Wisconsin will be short changing itself.”

“It is a disgrace that opponents of taking new federal dollars for Badger- Care are repeating over and over again a claim they must know to be false,” said Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “It damages the fiber of our democracy when political leaders deliberately mislead the public rather than stating the real reasons underlying their actions. Propagating the utter falsehood that enhanced BadgerCare funds are in doubt distracts public attention from the critical moral issue of guaranteeing that every Wisconsinite has access to affordable health coverage, no matter what.”

“The federal government is simply not going to walk away from its funding commitment to expanding Medicaid, said Jennifer Beeson, director of Government Affairs for Families USA. “The Medicaid expansion is a cornerstone of the President’s signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act. The President and supporters of the health care law in Congress will not agree to cuts in the federal funding of Medicaid.”

“The argument that we shouldn’t count on the enhanced federal Medicaid funding is a red herring,” said Jon Peacock, Research director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. “More than a fourth of the funding in the Governor’s budget comes from the federal government, and much of that funding is less secure than the federal Medicaid dollars that could fill the current hole in BadgerCare coverage.”

Peacock added that by relying on regular Medicaid funds to cover a smaller number of adults, the state is actually taking a greater risk because the normal federal matching rate for Medicaid can decline as average state income rises. That’s in contrast to the matching rate for the enhanced federal funding for the Medicaid expansion, because that rate is locked in by statute and can’t fall below 90 percent.

The decision whether to accept federal funds for Wisconsin’s BadgerCare program is currently before the Joint Finance Committee before going to the full Legislature next month.