Here’s what we can’t figure out. Our state legislators acknowledge they are facing some gigantic holes as they continue to create the next biennial state budget, and they just received word from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) that they won’t be able to fill those holes with new revenue growth, as they had hoped.
At the same time, Wisconsin has a unique opportunity to bring in at least an additional $345 million of revenue into the state budget by accepting Medicaid expansion dollars from the federal government.
This is revenue that could be used in the Medicaid budget or for other needed programs. We would have a win-win situation with more people insured and more money available in the state budget.
Yet our Governor and State Legislature – at least so far – have stood their ground and refused to accept Medicaid expansion money even as they continue to search for ways to balance the state spending plan for the next two years.
If you’re as frustrated as we are, then please contact your state legislators today and urge them to accept federal money for full Medicaid expansion in Wisconsin. If you’re not sure which state legislators represent you, find out here. You can also call AARP’s toll-free numbers to be connected to your local state legislators. The numbers are 1-844-254-6876 to reach Senators and 1-844-253-9862 to reach Representatives.
Here’s some more background on this issue.
The LFB recently announced that the latest state revenue growth estimates show no new anticipated revenue growth. Lawmakers had been hoping for new revenue to cover proposed budget cuts. However, the LFB says the current estimates for the three-year period are still reasonable and should not be adjusted.
This could have a serious ripple effect on our Medicaid programs. We’re particularly concerned cuts to the BadgerCare’s Childless Adults Program. That program would be on hundred percent funded with federal dollars if we accept the Medicaid expansion. If not, who knows?
In the last state budget, childless adults up to 100% of the Federal Poverty Level gained Medicaid coverage under BadgerCare. This budget proposes major changes to that program, including adding premiums, limiting the time a person can be on the program, and drug testing.
Accepting Medicaid expansion would add more people to the program, but cost the state less since it would be covered by federal dollars.
Medicaid expansion would keep the childless adults currently on the program in the program, without premiums or other modifications, while adding all childless adults between 100% FPL and 138% FPL.
It’s a no-brainer, right?
The governor’s unique experiment in the last state budget has not worked by his own admission. The truth is, the best way to provide health care coverage for low-income childless adults is by accepting Medicaid expansion, which would cover more people for less state money.
Polling and recent referendums have shown wide public support for the acceptance of Medicaid expansion. All 19 of the fall county referendums asking if people thought the state should accept Medicaid expansion passed. Eleven of those counties also supported Governor Walker’s re-election.
That proves this is not a partisan issue. It is a pathway forward supported by many people as reflected in the referendums and statewide polling. The times and circumstances change. We must change with those times. It is time to include full Medicaid expansion in the budget.