‘WalkerCare’ draws mixed reviews

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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to reject additional federal Medicaid funding for the state’s BadgerCare program is drawing mixed reviews, mostly divided along party lines.

Predictably, several Republican state legislators stepped up to guard Walker’s back.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said, “I support the governor’s decision. We’re giving more people access to private health insurance without putting state tax dollars at risk. Our focus will continue to be reducing people’s reliance on government programs. We want fewer people on Medicaid and want to give people the opportunity to choose what’s best for their families. Our state will continue to make the necessary investments to provide medical coverage for the poor but will not rely on the empty promises from the federal government to fund a program that they can’t afford.”

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State Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) said, “We have an obligation to protect our most vulnerable and taxpayers. Governor 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.”

Predictably, several Democrats criticized Walker’s plan. Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-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.”

Bobby Peterson, public interest attorney for ABC for Health, said, “Based on the WalkerCare plan presented today, I would urge the Wisconsin Legislature to walk away from this as quickly as possible. The Walker administration had a huge opportunity to promote over 10,000 new jobs and help all the people of Wisconsin save tax dollars by strengthening BadgerCare. Expanding health coverage would have brought home billions in federal dollars to help promote economic growth in Wisconsin. Now our federal tax dollars will go other states including many with
conservative Republican governors like Ohio, Michigan, and Arizona.”

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Bob Laszewski, a Washington-based independent insurance industry consultant and president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, told The Associated Press, “To me this is crazy policy. These exchange plans were never designed for Medicaid-eligible people. They’re designed for middle-class people who can afford deductibles and co-pays.” Laszewski also is a frequent critic of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

AARP Wisconsin denounced Walker’s plan.

“We are very disappointed because these childless adults – particularly those age 50 to 64 – will end up with a lesser benefit and much more of an uncertain future under the governor’s plan than if he had agreed to accept the Medicaid expansion funds from the federal government,” said Helen Marks Dicks, state issues advocacy director for AARP Wisconsin. “The governor’s coverage of childless adults is nothing but smoke and mirrors. Asking the lowest on the economic ladder to pay more when a logical, cheaper alternative exists isn’t a hand up, it’s a push down. The governor had a fantastic opportunity to provide full Medicaid benefits to an additional 175,000 Wisconsinites, and he chose not to do that.”

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Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes.

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