April 16, 2014

Lawmakers scrutinize Medicaid changes

State lawmakers continue to question Governor Walker’s decision to reject federal money to expand the state’s Medicaid programs.

The governor’s state budget proposal would create stricter income eligibility requirements for Medicaid programs, while moving people near the poverty line to private insurance. Department of Health Services Secretary-elect Kitty Rhoades says it’s a better idea than relying on short-term federal funding.

Rhoades says the proposal is part of the governor’s belief “that having more people depend on government-run Medicaid should not be our goal. But rather, we want to help individuals and families living above poverty to remain in the private sector for getting their health care coverage.”

Rhoades presented the plan Wednesday to the Legislature’s Finance Committee, which is receiving briefings from state agencies over the next week.

Republican Senator Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) joined Democrats on the panel in questioning why the state would turn down federal money to expand Medicaid, based largely on the argument that it could go away eventually. Olsen says it seems the state is “leaving money on the table,” when it could just grab it now and make some changes if it goes away down the road.

AUDIO: Sen. Luther Olsen (:10)

Rhoades argued the state will still see financial benefits through the governor’s plan, since the federal health exchanges will still be supported through taxpayer dollars rather than having them flow through Medicaid.

Lawmakers will consider the Medicaid proposal as they continue work on the state budget.