Voters across Wisconsin approved referendums on Tuesday, asking the state to accept federal Medicaid dollars. Robert Kraig with Citizen Action said the referendums – in nineteen counties and the city of Kenosha – won by landslide margins even in areas of the state that also supported Governor Scott Walker and conservative legislative candidates.
“It was 73 percent statewide, and it ran in most counties, even very conservative counties, ahead of Governor Walker,” Kraig said. “It’s clearly not a partisan issue whatsoever.”
As to whether Walker and Republican legislative leaders might eventually reconsider the decision to reject the federal funding to expand BadgerCare, Kraig said the ball is in their court. “They have – Governor Walker especially – drawn this line in the sand, that is not necessary,” Kraig. “It’s very clear that the voters, in reelecting Governor Walker and a conservative legislature, are not saying that they should continue to follow this policy of needlessly leaving hundreds of millions of federal dollars on the table.
That line appears to still be brightly drawn, though. Asked on Wednesday whether he’d consider taking the federal money, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said “no, period.”
Walker, citing concerns about the long-term viability of federal funding, rejected the expanded Medicaid funding in 2013. Instead of expanding BadgerCare, the Walker administration moved to tighten eligibility requirements and shift more people to federal health exchanges.
“There are a lot of Republican governors that have taken the money, and they’ve gotten a lot of waivers,” said Kraig. “You could do almost everything Governor Walker wants and take the money. So it’s a question of whether he’s going to be constructive on this issue. If he’s not, it’s not going to go away, and will become a major point of contention in this budget.”