Paul Adair is a 21-year Germantown resident, retired scientist, writer, and lecturer.
New revelations surface daily concerning Scott "The Law Doesn't Apply to Me" Walker's legal and ethical troubles. However, the sordid tales of pay-for-play corruption and outright lawlessness are being adequately covered by the media. So I won't further expand on these continuing embarrassments to our state. Today, I want to discuss a perfectly legal, but bone-headed, decision by our state's chief executive.
In June 2013, I wrote an article entitled, "Wisconsin Taxpayers Donate $119 Million to Walker's Presidential Run". In that blog, we discussed the huge direct cost to Wisconsin taxpayers of Scott Walker's decision to reject Badgercare expansion. If Walker was not running for President, if he did not need to establish his far-right street cred, he would have made a more fiscally responsible choice.The millions of dollars that Walker's politically-motivated action cost us is a de facto contribution to his presidential campaign.
Unfortunately, I was wrong. Walker is not costing Wisconsin $119 million, as then estimated by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. He is costing much, much more. According to updated estimates, Walker's decision is costing us $206 million in the current biennium, and as much as $315 million during the 2015-17 budget period. That is, over just four years, Walker's economic blundering is costing state taxpayers a cool half billion dollars.
If Walkercare costs so much more, we must be getting a better outcome, right? Surely more of our poorest are covered under his plan, right? No, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Walkercare will result in 87,000 fewer insured people in 2016 vs Badgercare expansion. So Walker's plan results in tens of thousand fewer insured, costing us much, much more. What a bargain !
In states that accepted the Medicaid expansion portion of the Affordable Care Act, people who make up to 133% of the Federal Poverty ($15,856/yr) level are covered by Medicaid. Those who make more can obtain insurance on the insurance exchanges, with a scale of decreasing subsidies for those who make up to 400% of the poverty level.
Walkercare, in contrast, removes anyone making over 100% of poverty level from Badgercare (our name for Medicaid). Those people are “encouraged” to buy coverage on the federally-run state insurance exchange. The exchange, designed for people with incomes much higher than poverty level, is not useful for our very poorest. Many people are simply forced to do without coverage.
What is the reason Walker gives for his financial malfeasance? He says that he doesn't trust the US Government to live up to its obligations, worrying about "costs that will come in the future when the federal government reneges just like they've done many times before."
Walker's logic simply makes no sense. Walkercare itself counts on sustained federal funding. It counts on continuing the 60% funding of non-expanded Medicaid. It counts on continuing subsidies for insurance bought on the exchange.
By Walker's fuzzy logic, the state should never accept federal money to build highways, airports, or dams. After all, some day the money could possibly be cut. Then where would we be?
By Walker's convoluted logic, you should never accept a job. After all, some day the company might go out of business. Or you might get fired. Then where would you be? You would be used to getting a regular paycheck and suddenly have to do without one.
Twenty-seven states have expanded Medicaid, with several others still debating the issue. Many of Walker's Republican governor pals have had no problem in making the responsible choice and embracing Medicaid expansion. GOP governors in Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota and New Mexico have all put the health of their people over petty politics. Of course, none of those governors have Presidential aspirations.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer also accepted Medicaid expansion for her state. In accepting, she included a "circuit breaker", which halts the Arizona program expansion in the event that the federal government decreases the payouts. If Walker was really concerned about the Feds reneging, he could have followed Brewer's lead, accepting the expansion with a similar circuit breaker provision.
The people of Wisconsin were never consulted on the question of whether to accept expanded Medicaid funds. The decision was made by our White House-seeking Governor and rubber-stamped by our legislature. To counter Walker's bad decision, people all over the state are rising up and demanding a say. A referendum on the issue is on the November ballot in eighteen of our most populous counties, as well as the city of Kenosha.
Medicaid expansion is a highly popular issue in states as diverse as Maine, Kentucky, Georgia, Kansas, and Pennsylvania. According to today's Marquette Poll, 56.3% of likely Wisconsin voters support Medicaid expansion, while only 30.7% reject expansion. Results of the November referenda will no doubt reflect this popularity. We can only hope that our state legislature acquiesces to the will of the people. We hope they work with Governor Burke to implement Badgercare expansion in 2015. It just makes good economic sense.