Gov. Walker Turns Down Federal Medicaid ExpansionUpdated: Feb 13, 2013 6:07 PM CST
MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Republican Governor Scott Walker says he won't expand Wisconsin's Medicaid services to 175,000 childless adults as the federal health care overhaul law allows.
Instead, Walker announced Wednesday a hybrid approach that he says will drop the state's uninsured non-elderly adults from 14 percent to 7 percent.
Walker's plan would tighten the income threshold to qualify for Medicaid, but also lift the cap on a program that covers childless adults. He says the net effect would insure 224,580 more people.
Walker was among the last Republican governors to decide whether to move forward with the expansion. Six Republican governors have agreed to the Medicaid expansion.
Wisconsin's hospitals and many medical and health advocacy groups had urged Walker to accept the federal money to pay for the expansion of services.The governor says his upcoming budget proposal includes entitlement reforms intended to make people less dependent on government assistance, such as requiring worker training for able people who are receiving food stamp assistance and increasing the number of required job searches to remain eligible for unemployment insurance.
"With these Medicaid reforms, we will preserve an essential safety net for our neediest, while protecting our state's taxpayers from uncertainty," the governor said in a written statement Wednesday. "In Wisconsin, we made tough, but prudent, decisions in the last two years to get our state on the right track. We truly understand the consequences of avoiding tough choices. Our plan safeguards Wisconsin taxpayers from unnecessary risk and builds on Wisconsin's strong track record of providing affordable health care to our people."
Reactions fell along party lines.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) said, "Governor Walker said we're not going to take the federal government's lead, we're going to try and solve it the Wisconsin way. And we're doing it by saying, number one, at the end of our program's implementation, 225,000 more people in Wisconsin are going to have insurance than they do today."
"In the end, if he's worried about costs down the road, I believe it was the Kaiser Foundation that send in ten years we would save $500 million, so it's a win-win; we insure almost everybody, if not everybody, creating 10,000 jobs. And I think we're making a mistake by not taking it all," Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) said.
"If Governor Walker cared about building a strong middle class and a healthy workforce, he would accept all available funding to strengthen BadgerCare and give 175,000 more working Wisconsinites access to economic stability through affordable health care," Senate Democratic Leader Chris Larson said in a written statement. "Had Governor Walker chosen another path, 175,000 more working Wisconsinites could have access to health care, reports show 10,500 new jobs could be created, and Wisconsin could save $495 million over the next 10 years."