Friday, January 18, 2013

Wisconsin Mental Health Agencies Will Lose Out on Millions if Walker Rejects Medicaid Dollars

Milwaukee:  At a press conference Thursday morning health advocates highlighted a crisis fast approaching.  Mental health and substance abuse agencies across Wisconsin would lose millions of dollars in federal dollars which flow through county governments if Governor Scott Walker rejects increased federal Medicaid money offered by the Affordable Care Act, the national health care reform law.  

Millions of dollars in federal money for county reimbursement of mental health and substance abuse clinics is set to be replaced by Medicaid (BadgerCare in Wisconsin), a more streamlined and efficient system of covering these patients as part of the Affordable Care Act. Last summer the Supreme Court, in their ruling on the Affordable Care Act, allowed Governors such as Walker the ability to reject increased federal Medicaid funds to improve BadgerCare.

The consequences of Governor Walker following that path is a massive blow to our state’s behavioral health system. By not accepting an estimated $12 billion over 10 years in Medicaid funding from the federal government, Governor Walker would be denying agencies one of the only other methods of reimbursement left to them. Milwaukee County alone is set to face over $3.6 million in cuts to mental health and substance abuse reimbursements to private sector agencies if the Governor rejects the funds. Furthermore, loss of revenue would prevent the creation of over 10,000 new jobs in the healthcare sector, many of which in the field of mental health and substance abuse. Over 900 agencies in Wisconsin perform these services, with locations in all 72 counties of the state.

“This is not just a question of accepting federal funds to fill in the holes in our state’s BadgerCare program” said Kevin Kane, Healthcare Organizer at Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “This decision will show if Walker will allow a massive slash to private sector agencies that provide needed mental health services simply to curry favorite with the Tea Party base.”

"Without accepting the federal Medicaid revenue, clinics we work with and represent will be in a state of crisis”, said Rochelle Landingham, Program Director at WestCare Wisconsin.  “Without a means to fund mental health and substance abuse programs, agencies will have to end these programs; and that means closing of doors, further lack of care and loss of jobs."

“The Medicaid expansion is estimated to provide insurance for up to a third of people with mental  health and substance abuse disorders who are currently uninsured. Since cost is a major deterrent to people seeking care, it should reduce this barrier,” said Shel Gross, Director of Public Policy at Mental Health America in Wisconsin. “And, it will provide needed fiscal relief for counties who now serve a portion of this population.”

"There has been consistent messaging from Madison of bi-partisanship and staying focused on issues that matter. Thousands of residents in Milwaukee County and all over the state will benefit from the Governor making the right decision of accepting federal resources in this matter," said David Bowen, Milwaukee County  Supervisor. "We can not let partisan politics get in the way while residents with mental health and health care needs go without."

 Robert Kraig
Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin
221 S. 2nd St., Suite 300
Milwaukee, WI 53204
(414) 322-5324 (mobile)

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