February 14, 2016

Advocates urge Walker to take federal Medicaid money

Health care advocates call on the governor to close the gap in BadgerCare.

Wisconsin businesses will pay $120 million more in federal taxes if Governor Scott Walker rejects increased federal Medicaid money to expand BadgerCare as part of ObamaCare — Affordable Care Act — according to Citizen Action of Wisconsin Executive Director Robert Kraig. “We should understand that turning down the Medicaid money is going to lead to a very large tax increase of a large magnitude on Wisconsin businesses.”

Under the federal health care law, employers with more than 50 workers who don’t offer adequate health insurance would have to pay a tax penalty for each employee who enrolls in the new health exchanges, but not if employees opt for BadgerCare. Milwaukee Democrat Jon Richards serves on the Assembly Health Committee. “This should be a no-brainer to expand coverage to people of Wisconsin, especially if the federal government’s gonna kick in 100 percent or even 90 percent of that cost,” he says, “we should be moving forward aggressively.”

The governor has not yet made a decision about accepting over $12 billion in federal funds over the next decade to help expand Medicaid services. State Health Secretary Dennis Smith told reporters recently, there’s still a lot of uncertainty. Under ObamaCare, Smith said Wisconsin taxpayers will pay more for healthcare programs for Wisconsin’s poor — more than the law will save. “Medicaid is unsustainable without reform; without reform states really cannot expand.”

David Riemer is a senior fellow with Community Advocates Public Policy Institute, and author of this new analysis. “If we don’t expand BadgerCare, there will be a large tax increase for Wisconsin’s employers. The only question is the magnitude of it.”

Governor Walker addressed the Wisconsin Bankers Association’s annual economic forecast luncheon in Madison on Thursday and talked to reporters afterward. He made no indication of any Medicaid decision.

Secretary Smith said a decision on Medicaid expansion will be in the governor’s budget, expected next month.

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