By Cassandra Lans
It’s like going back in history again. Governor Scott Walker announced that he plans to reject $12 billion from the federal government that would expand the state’s Badger- Care program with no additional cost from Wisconsin’s taxpayers.
Many legislators and community leaders say that the governor is playing politics with literally the lives of thousands of Wisconsinites. Congresswoman Gwen Moore stated that she is very disappointed in Walker’s plan for the state. She said, ““It seems our Governor Scott Walker is determined to consistently be on the wrong side of history. He has once again allowed his Republican ideologies to interfere with what is best for the people of the state of Wisconsin.
His decision to not allow Wisconsin to participate in the federal Medicaid expansion rejects $4.38 billion in federal funding that could help poor and working class Wisconsinites who desperately need these health benefits. This decision will increase low-income families’ out-of-pocket health care costs, pricing needed care out of reach for some.
His decision to leave this money on the table is baffling. Especially when a number of his fellow Republican governors including Jan Brewer of Arizona, John Kasich of Ohio and Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota have chosen to accept the Medicaid expansion funds even though they have stated that they are ideologically opposed to the ACA.
Government is supposed to help, not hurt people. Instead of reducing the number of uninsured by building on the Medicaid and CHIP coverage, the number of uninsured in Wisconsin may go up. It just doesn’t make any sense. We can’t implore people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps if they don’t even have boots. During these tough economic times we need to be figuring out how to increase health services to the less fortunate, not strip them away.”
On a media call last week following Walker’s announcement, with Congressman Ron Kind, State Senator Jon Erpenbach, and State Rep. Jon Richards a report that was shared during the call says that accepting federal Medicaid dollars to fill the holes in Wisconsin’s BadgerCare program would not only bring access to affordable health care to 274,000 Wisconsinites but would also in 2016 alone support more than 10,552 new jobs across the spectrum of the state’s economy.
The report, released jointly by Citizen Action of Wisconsin and the national consumer advocacy organization Families USA, spotlights a wide range of health care and economic benefits that Wisconsin would experience by participating in the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion.
The report is based on the general guidelines for Medicaid expansion under the reform law:
While the federal government now pays 60 percent of the cost of the current Medicaid program, it will pay all the costs of expanded coverage the first three years of the program—2014 to 2016—and its share will then only decrease to 90 percent by 2020.
The Medicaid “expansion,” as it is termed, is actually a national standardization of eligibility, raising the qualifying income level to 138 percent of the federal poverty level and making single individuals or couples without children eligible for Medicaid in states where they did not otherwise qualify.
With Wisconsin dealing with an unemployment rate of 6.6 percent in December, a gain of 10,552 new jobs in 2016 is just one of many benefits to the state. The Medicaid expansion would also:
Increase economic activity. The increased federal funding and jobs created are projected to increase economic activity in Wisconsin by $1.3 billion in 2016.
Reduce state spending on state funded health care programs for the uninsured. Currently, states and localities pay for about 30 percent of the cost of uncompensated care. A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that Wisconsin could save $247 million dollars in uncompensated care costs from 2013 to 2022.
Strengthen the state’s health care system. The Wisconsin Hospital Association says that the state’s hospitals absorbed $580 million in costs for providing charity care to the uninsured.
Increasing the number of residents receiving Medicaid would reduce those costs, strengthening the health care system for everyone in the state.
Reduce costs from uncompensated care that are passed on to consumers and businesses. Some of the costs of uncompensated care are also passed along to insurance companies, which in turn raise premiums for businesses and families. In 2008, Families USA calculated that uncompensated care increased family health insurance premiums by an estimated $1,017. By reducing the number of Wisconsinites without insurance, those costs shifts can be reduced.
Increase state revenue.
Although tax structures vary from state to state, increasing jobs and business activity generally means more sales tax revenue for states or localities, and more jobs and better paying jobs also contribute to state income. This increase could help offset the state’s own cost for a Medicaid expansion.
Help Wisconsinites become healthier and more productive. Hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites will now have access to affordable health coverage, an essential step to healthier lives and a gain for Wisconsin.
“The Medicaid expansion is a win win win proposition for the people of Wisconsin,” Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said. “It would reduce the number of people who can’t afford health care; it will increase the number of jobs throughout the state; and it will strengthen the state’s economy.”
“It is hard to believe that any responsible leader would turn down the federal Medicaid money to fill the holes in BadgerCare,” said Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “In addition to giving hundreds of thousands of low income Wisconsinites the freedom to control their own health care decisions and to get ahead economically, accepting the new federal Medicaid money will also create jobs in the health care industry.”
“I am extremely disappointed Governor Walker would reject the new federal revenue for
Medicaid,” said U.S. Congressman Ron Kind (D-La Crosse) “We need to get those who lack quality affordable healthcare in the system so our hospitals do not have to shift the costs of uncompensated care and emergency room visits onto our businesses and families. I do not foresee a better deal than this being offered to Wisconsin or any other state in our lifetime.”
“By accepting the generous federal funding available to Wisconsin, Scott Walker has the opportunity to make good on his promise of new jobs promise on which he has thus far failed to deliver,” said State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton).
“This report confirms that Wisconsin has the opportunity to give health care security to its low income residents, create jobs, spur economic activity and decrease the negative impacts of uncompensated care. It should be a no brainer.”
“At a time when Wisconsin ranks dead last in the Midwest in job growth and needs to balance its budget, now is the wrong time to turn down a good deal that expands access to affordable health care, saves taxpayers money in the next budget and creates 10,500 new jobs,” said State Representative Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee).
The report used 2016 as a model, its authors say, because, although Medicaid expansion funds will be available to states in 2014, it is expected to take time for enrollment to reach the level where the program’s full economic benefit is revealed.
The full report, “Wisconsin’s Economy Will Benefit from Expanding Medicaid,” is available at http://familiesusa2.org/assets/pdfs/medicaidexpansion/Wisconsin.pdf