JFC rejects Medicaid expansion on party line vote - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

JFC rejects Medicaid expansion on party line vote


MADISON (WKOW) -- The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee followed Gov. Scott Walker's recommendation to reject the federal expansion of Medicaid.

Medicaid is the government health insurance program for the nation's poor.

The Affordable Care Act offered an expansion of Medicaid at no cost to the states, which would have covered an additional 84,700 people under the program in Wisconsin, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

But earlier this year, Governor Scott Walker said he would reject the expansion and the federal dollars that paid for it, saying there was no guarantee those federal dollars would be there in the long-term and that Wisconsin could be left paying for the expansion in the future.

The June 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld the Affordable Care Act allowed states to opt out of the Medicaid expansion provision.

The Governor's plan will cover all individuals and families who are at or below 100% of the federal poverty level.  Everyone above that would be required to purchase private health insurance through the exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act.

Democrats on the JFC said that insurance is simply too costly for people living just above the poverty level, which is why the Affordable Care Act includes an expansion of Medicaid.

The Democrats introduced an omnibus motion to accept $620 million in federal money for Medicaid expansion, primarily for the expansion of Badger Care Plus, which provides insurance for impoverished parents and children.

Due to the federal dollars, Wisconsin would have saved $120 million dollars under the Democrats proposal in comparison to Gov. Walker's plan. 

But Republicans on the JFC said the money provided by the federal government still comes from taxpayers, which they oppose.

"Its not saving money if its still taxpayer dollars," said Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette), Co-Chair of the JFC.

The JFC rejected the motion 12-4 on a straight party line vote.

"This is a decision that doesn't make any sense unless you're running for President and trying to win a primary," said Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine), alluding to the conjecture that Gov. Walker rejected the plan to curry favor with national conservatives.

Republicans then passed their own omnibus motion on Medicaid and other health services, which follows the Governor's proposal in large part. 

But the Republican motion does include a provision that allows the state to increase the income level for Badger Care Plus to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, if the federal government has not set up a health insurance exchange in Wisconsin by October 15, 2013.

That would allow those people who qualify to enroll in Badger Care Plus for a period of 90 days, or until the health insurance exchanges are set up.

Capitol Bureau Chief Greg Neumann is at today's Joint Finance Committee meeting and will have live reports on 27 News at 5 and 6.



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