Walker rejects additional federal funding for Medicaid

Gov. Scott Walker announced today he will reject additional federal Medicaid funding for the state’s BadgerCare program, breaking with other Republican governors who have decided to accept federal money for a Medicaid expansion as offered through President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Instead, Walker is proposing what he called a “hybrid” approach that includes tightening income eligibility for Medicaid, lifting a cap on a program that covers childless adults and forcing more people to buy insurance through a government-run exchange.

Walker, who unveiled the plan at a meeting of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, said the net result of his plan would drop the state’s share of uninsured non-elderly adults from 14 percent to 7 percent.

“Government can provide a hand up, but should not provide a permanent handout,” Walker said.  “We need to break cycles of generational dependence on the government.  Reforming entitlements, like Medicaid and unemployment insurance, puts an emphasis on independence and the dignity that comes with working hard to build a prosperous future of your own choosing.” 

Walker’s decision is being criticized by Democrats, health care advocacy groups and others, including Wisconsin hospitals, who had urged him to take the expansion and the billions of dollars in federal money that would come with it.

Senate Democratic Leader Chris Larsen of Milwaukee said, “Gov. Walker’s refusal to truly strengthen BadgerCare for Wisconsin’s working families is an attack on the growth of our middle class. Forcing working families to try and find healthcare in Gov. Walker’s failing economy is not a middle path.  If Gov. Walker cared about building a strong middle class and a healthy workforce, he would accept all available funding to strengthen BadgerCare and give 175,000 more working Wisconsinites access to economic stability through affordable healthcare. Governor Walker made the wrong decision for Wisconsin families. Had Gov. Walker chosen another path, 175,000 more working Wisconsinites could have access to health care, reports show 10,500 new jobs could be created and Wisconsin could save $495 million over the next 10 years.”

Democratic Minority Leader Peter Barca of Kenosha said, “Today Gov. Walker said no to extending BadgerCare to as many as 175,000 people all across Wisconsin. He said no to doing the right thing for people who desperately need care, no to doing the right thing for taxpayers and no to health care jobs. Saying yes should have been the easiest budget decision Gov. Walker had to make. Instead, he placed support from right-wing extremists before the needs of Wisconsin taxpayers, vulnerable citizens and unemployed job seekers. Now he’s trying to muddy the waters of his bad decision by laying out a convoluted, uncertain plan and labeling it a ‘hybrid’ when he is actually taking an extreme path rejected by many conservative Republican governors – including Arizona, Michigan and Ohio.”

However, some Republican lawmakers praised Walker’s decision.

State Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) said, “We have an obligation to protect our most vulnerable and taxpayers. Gov. Walker’s plan does both. After we finally have our fiscal house in order, it would be irresponsible to send the state back into uncertainty because the federal government doesn’t honor another commitment. Adding to that uncertainty is the fact that it has been more than three years since the President signed a budget into law. We simply can’t count on the money being there in the future. Gov. Walker has taken a sensible and responsible approach that helps protect our excellent healthcare system and takes care of our most vulnerable citizens. I support his emphasis on reform and making sure government provides a hand-up, not a hand-out. That’s the same real-world approach that has made our landmark welfare reforms so successful. I look forward to further examining the governor’s plan when the budget comes to the Joint Committee on Finance.”

So far, six Republican governors have agreed to the Medicaid expansion, while 14 have turned it down, according to The Associated Press.

Walker previously rejected federal funding to create a state-run exchange for insurance providers for Obamacare. Walker also rejected $810 million in federal funding to build a high-speed rail line from Chicago through Milwaukee to Madison. That line instead is being built across the state of Illinois from Chicago west to the Quad-Cities, and the federal government plans to eventually extend it to Iowa City, Des Moines and Spokane.

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