What killing Medicaid expansion means for Wisconsin taxpayers
June 9, 2021
Within seconds of convening on May 25, the budget committee of the Wisconsin legislature gaveled out, crushing hope for Medicaid expansion in Wisconsin. The action—or lack of action—took place during a special session called by Democratic Governor Tony Evers.
The failure to act also means that Wisconsin is a loser to the tune of $1 billion of coronavirus relief funding from the federal government.
“Wisconsin has essentially been handed a $1 billion lottery ticket,” said Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz after the session. “The only acceptable answer is to cash it by expanding BadgerCare, and then invest it in our economic recovery.”
He added that turning down Medicaid expansion was “absurd,” and was something no private business would do.
Republicans leaders, on the other hand, termed the effort to expand Medicaid in Wisconsin a political stunt. According to the Associated Press, the GOP legislators don’t want to move Wisconsinites from private insurance to BadgerCare Plus. They also worried that the federal money would dry up and force the state to cover what the federal government didn’t come through on.
Governor Evers called the special session by promising to assign $850 million of the $1 billion for economic development projects. He wanted to save the balance. Evers called turning down the $1 billion “breathtaking” in a statement after the session.
“…[W]e should be doing everything we can to make sure our economy bounces back from this pandemic, and this special session was about finding common ground and getting bipartisan support for our efforts,” Evers stated. “Clearly, it’s disappointing Republicans don’t seem to take that responsibility seriously, and they’ll have to explain to Wisconsinites why they made the decision they did today.”
Wisconsin Republicans Robin Vos, Devin LeMaieu, Howard Marklein, and Mark Born responded with a letter to Evers in which they defended the GOP’s stance.
“Expanding Medicaid as you have proposed is unneeded and even reckless,” the letter read.
What does this mean for Wisconsin taxpayers?
- Had the Republicans not gaveled out Medicaid expansion for Wisconsin, 91,000 more Wisconsinites would have been eligible for BadgerCare, according to the Associated Press.
- Wisconsin will not see $635 million in savings over the next two years due to higher federal reimbursements under Medicaid expansion, according the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
- 90 percent of Medicaid expansion cost would have been covered under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
- The American Relief Plan would have essentially covered the remaining 10 percent due to a two-year 5 percent bump in federal funding match for the traditional Medicaid programs, according to MSNBC’s figures.
- More struggling Wisconsin families would have been eligible for BaderCare Plus, receiving help with caregiving, prescription drugs, and other health necessities.
- Wisconsin hospitals, healthcare providers, and long-term care facilities will lose out on increased Wisconsin payment rates, according to DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake.
- $2.8 billion would have been saved between 2013 and 2019 if Medicaid expansion had been initiated earlier, when Democratic lawmakers pushed for it while Scott Walker was governor.
Wisconsin is one of just 12 holdout states that do not participate in Medicaid expansion.
“Taking steps to improve the health of low-income families and individuals, and the financial solvency of our health care system, will strengthen our state’s economy and enable us to bounce back faster,” Timberlake wrote in press release. “And accepting $1.6 billion in federal funding—our fair share of the taxes people have paid, and will continue to pay into the system—will provide Wisconsin the opportunity to make far-reaching investments in our state.”
Unfortunately, Republicans gaveled out that opportunity in under a minute for Wisconsin taxpayers and citizens.