April 17, 2014

Governor mulls over plan to take Medicaid money

While a number of groups and Democratic lawmakers say Wisconsin faces consequences if Governor Scott Walker rejects about $12 billion from the federal government over ten years to expand BadgerCare, Walker is still undecided on the issue.

During an appearance in Wausau Thursday, Assembly Democrat Mandy Wright urged Walker to accept the federal dollars and claimed the money could bring “thousands of jobs” to Central Wisconsin. “We have the technological colleges; we have the UW System; we have a lot of opportunities to train the workforce and get people to work,” she said.  

Walker responded by saying the federal government may want Wisconsin to take the money, but there is still no guarantee those dollars will be there. “They are not fully appropriated in the Congress right now. Having just been in Washington, there are some real concerns that those funds are not in the budget,” he said. The governor is concerned Wisconsin taxpayers will ultimately foot-the-bill.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin is among groups urging Walker to accept the Medicaid expansion funding, a provision of the Affordable Care Act. While meeting with other health care activists in Washington, Executive Director Robert Kraig said Walker is looked at as one of the “ringleaders” in the conservative response to Obamacare, and the governor’s decision will influence other policy makers.

Walker’s critics say turning down the money will cost Wisconsin around $495 million for uncompensated care. They also claim the rejection will result in cuts to mental health and substance abuse programs, and force businesses to pay about $120 million in additional taxes for health care costs. 

The governor expects to make a final decision before announcing his biennial budget proposal later this month.

Larry Lee-WSAU contributed to this report