AARP Wisconsin Advocates at the CapitolWe were extremely disappointed to see the Wisconsin State Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee’s 12-4 vote last week not to expand Medicaid or Family Care as part of the next biennial budget. However, the fight is far from over and our advocacy efforts continue.

In the next steps of the process, the Joint Finance Committee’s budget bill will be sent first to the Assembly and then to the Senate for a vote. Separate amendments to the bill in favor of Family Care expansion and Medicaid expansion will likely be introduced in each of the two chambers. Legislators will then be forced to vote on these issues before the two chambers pass along their approved state budget drafts to the Governor for signature into law.

We believe that Medicaid expansion and Family Care are important issues and deserve their own separate discussion and vote by state lawmakers. That’s why we’re urging all Wisconsinites to call their local state legislators at 1-800-844-2847 and ask them to vote in favor of these expansions which will appear in separate state budget amendments.

Not only would Medicaid expansion bring about $119 million in additional federal dollars into the State of Wisconsin’s Medicaid budget, it would provide health care for more than 85,000 low-income Wisconsinites who might otherwise be without coverage. This expansion would help free up state tax dollars to be used for other budget priorities.

Family Care, Wisconsin’s long-term care program for those 65-plus, is a cost-effective program that is already working well in 57 counties. It shouldn’t matter where you live in Wisconsin when you need long-term care. The Family Care program should be expanded into the seven northeastern counties  – Brown, Door, Kewaunee, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto, and Shawano – who are ready and willing and eager to join in.

If both the Senate and the Assembly pass identical budget bills, then it moves on to the Governor, who will have his final say before signing the 2013-15 state budget into law.

If there are disagreements along the way, such as one chamber passing an amendment and not the other, then a conference committee could be created to work out the differences until they reach a compromise that both chambers will pass.

Now is the time to make your voice heard. Call your local legislators at 1-800-844-2847 and tell them to support Wisconsin seniors and vote in favor of the expansion of Family Care and Medicaid Expansion.

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