Wisconsin will continue to be a state that will not accept the federal Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. First rejected by Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin legislative Republicans continue to hold fast against taking more federal money to expand Medicaid eligibility.

In a politically motivated move to get around the state budget process, Gov. Tony Evers announced a special session of the legislature to consider taking federal money to expand eligibility in the state’s Medicaid program, BadgerCare, to 138% of the federal poverty line. Republican leaders on Wednesday promised to continue to say no to the extra funds.

“The Governor says this special session is about BadgerCare, but this bill is nothing more than a mini budget advanced by the Governor because he didn’t get his way through the normal budget process,” Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) and Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam), the Joint Finance Committee co-chairmen, said in a statement released Wednesday. “The Governor has spent the last few months specifically keeping legislators out of the process. Instead of delivering a serious plan for the expenditure of federal funds, he’s using his time and energy creating division. The Finance committee will continue our work to craft a serious budget that funds Wisconsin priorities and respects taxpayers.” 

The Assembly Majority Leader and the state Senate President were even more direct about rejecting the governor’s Medicaid expansion plans.

“If the Governor were serious about the proposals he packed into this bill, he could fund each one of them today with the mountain of federal funds at his direct disposal,” Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) and Senate President Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) said. “This is a thinly-veiled political maneuver by the Governor. We intend to gavel out this unserious stunt.”

Under Walker, instead of expanding Medicaid eligibility to Obamacare levels, the Wisconsin legislature chose to expand BadgerCare to cover everyone at 100% of the federal poverty line or below. Above the federal poverty line, Wisconsinites without health insurance could use the Obamacare health insurance exchanges to find coverage while using Obamacare policy subsidies depending on the person’s income level.

According to the liberal Kaiser Foundation, Wisconsin remains the only state to reject the Obamacare Medicaid expansion and still avoid any gap in insurance coverage.

If Wisconsin were to accept the federal funds for expanded Medicaid coverage, thousands of Wisconsinites currently on private insurance would suddenly find themselves on Medicaid. Worse, Wisconsin would then be responsible for a percentage of those costs going forward and risk lower federal subsidies (and higher state taxes) in the future for the new Medicaid commitment.

“In Wisconsin, there is no coverage gap between BadgerCare and the heavily-subsidized federal exchanges. Everyone who wants insurance in our state has access and options,” said Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg). “Our unique-to-Wisconsin solution is working, and we will not shift tens of thousands of people off their private insurance to a government-run system.”

The expansion of Medicaid would also have a negative impact on private insurance as well as health care costs would be passed along to the private insurance consumer. A study released in 2019 showed that Medicaid expansion would cause overall private medical spending would actually go up $1.1 billion, with a net loss in benefit to the state of $600.3 million the following year if the state accepted the Obamacare funding.

In addition, a Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo in 2019 said that, had Wisconsin accepted the federal funds for Obamacare Medicaid expansion in that budget cycle, there would have been $1.15 billion in increased federal spending, compared to just $392 million in “savings,” for a net loss to taxpayers of $761.8 million. Over the entire LFB projection, Wisconsin would have had a net loss of $1.59 billion.

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