UPDATE: GOP Senator questions rejection of Medicaid expansion - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

UPDATE: GOP Senator questions Gov. Walker's rejection of Medicaid expansion


MADISON (WKOW) -- First it was expanding voucher schools.  Then it was adding 700 new state employees.  Now lawmakers from Governor Scott Walker's (R-Wisconsin) own party have concerns about yet another part of his budget proposal.

The Governor's decision to reject an expansion of Medicaid last month means the state would pass up more than $4 billion in federal money.

Some Republican Senators are now publicly questioning that choice.

At a Wednesday Joint Finance Committee hearing on the budget, officials from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services found themselves defending the Governor's decision to reject the Medicaid expansion.  Medicaid is the government run health insurance program for the poor.

In the short-term, that decision will cost the state $100 million over the next two years and put people who would currently qualify for Medicaid into private health insurance exchanges under the federal Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.

"Under your plan we cover fewer people, we spend more money," Rep. Jon Richards (R-Milwaukee) told DHS officials.

But Democrats weren't the only ones expressing those concerns.

"I always, in my life, never leave any money on the table," said Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon). "And it seems to me we're sort of leaving some money on the table here that is there.  Grab it while you can."

But DHS officials and the Governor say the short-term savings aren't worth the long-term risk of having to foot the bill if the federal government stops payment.

"They can't even pay for what they have today in Medicaid, let alone a tremendously large expansion after January of next year," said Gov. Walker.  "So I just think logic shows that they don't have the money to pay for it today, they're certainly not gonna have it again in the future."

The federal government does allow states to opt out of the expansion at anytime.

"And if it goes away later, then we have to make some serious changes," said Sen. Olsen.

But DHS officials say that's easier said than done.
"There's a lot to the operations of this.  And we can't just one day say, we're gonna turn this off," said Brett Davis, Medicaid Director for DHS.

"Its one of those where I think we're gonna be proven to be right and other states are gonna really question why they made that decision in the first place," said Gov. Walker.

Republican Sen. Dale Schultz (R-Wisconsin) tells 27 News he is very intrigued by the points raised by Sen. Olsen and wants to work with him on a possible budget solution.

If they attempt to change the Governor's Medicaid plans, the state could still accept the federal expansion as there is no deadline.

But Gov. Walker says he's confident both the Assembly and Senate will ultimately support his decision.


MADISON (WKOW) -- Gov. Scott Walker's plan to reject federally funded Medicaid expansion is drawing criticism from Democrats on the Legislature's budget committee. 

Walker's Medicaid plan is the centerpiece of his health care proposals, which were discussed Wednesday by the Legislature's Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee. 

Democratic state Rep. Jon Richards is one of the most vocal critics of Walker's decision to reject the expansion and $4.4 billion in federal money. He says it's not too late for the Republican-controlled Legislature to reverse that decision. 

But Republicans have shown no desire to go against Walker's wishes on Medicaid. 

Incoming Department of Health Services Secretary Kitty Roades defends Walker's plan, saying it will protect those in poverty and keep others covered through private insurance. 


MADISON (WKOW)-- Governor Scott Walker's proposed changes to the state Medicaid program is scheduled to be discussed by the Legislature's budget committee.

The Joint Finance Committee plans to take up Walker's Medicaid plan during a briefing Wednesday. The state Department of Health Services is one of five agencies scheduled to discuss the governor's budget.

Walker rejected expanding Medicaid under the federal health care overhaul law. Instead, he proposes tightening income eligibility which would then make more people near the poverty line purchase insurance through new private marketplaces.

Critics say those marketplaces were not designed for people that poor.

Walker's plan would also allow for a cap on enrollment in a program for childless adults to be lifted.

Democrats have come out against it, but they don't have the votes to stop it.

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