Two lawmakers, both Democrats, are calling on Governor Walker to expand the state's Medicaid program, saying it will save the state money. If the governor doesn't include changes to Badgercare in his budget, Democratic lawmakers will try to pass a bill ... in a legislature controlled by Republicans.
From the beginning, Governor Walker has stood firm against Obamacare. But other Republican governors have softened their stance on one element of health reform: using federal dollars to expand Medicaid. Democratic lawmaker Jon Richards of Milwaukee are hoping Walker does so: "The extra federal funds are made available through Obamacare, but strengthening BadgerCare isn't about loving or hating Obamacare. It's about knowing a good deal when you seen one."
The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau has done an analysis showing the expansion of BadgerCare to childless adults would save the state $65 million during the first 3 years. The feds pick up the entire Medicaid tab initially; it decreases after that. Governor Walker has doubts about long-term funding. "I don't hear from the members of Congress an aggressive pathway by which they fully fund the dollars needed for any state to expand."
But Democrats say the money is set aside and that it's time to set aside politics. Madison family physician Jeff Huebner says expanding government insurance to childless adults saves money because it prevents routine health problems from being treated in expensive emergency rooms. Moreover, he says it's a moral issue: "Nobody in Wisconsin should die, become disabled, excessively sick or bankrupt due to of a lack of health insurance and not being able to afford their medical and hospital bills."
Governor Walker's decision on Medicaid will be revealed in his budget address later this month.