Governor's decision to reject federal health aid challenged

Jim Baumgart  Sheboygan County Supervisor

There are many within the Wisconsin medical community who are concerned that not fully accepting the federal Affordable Care Act could be a cost shift to them while at the same time not covering many thousands of our residents. In addition, there are a number of county boards who would like to discuss the option of bypassing the Governor’s position and use Federal Medicaid funding to improve BadgerCare and cover many more thousands of its citizens. Health care coverage is now a concern for thousands of Wisconsin families.

On April 11, 2013 at least a dozen of the major medical health systems and others wrote the members of the Wisconsin State Legislature. They urged “As some of the Wisconsin’s largest and most respected health care, physician, nurse and business organizations, we urge you to use this opportunity to transform Wisconsin’s Medicaid program, leveraging the flexibility to preserve our health care safety net and improve access to affordable coverage while saving Wisconsin taxpayers’ money.”

They go on to say, “...... we remain concerned about the estimated 100,000 adults currently covered under Medicaid who will lose eligibility on January 1, 2014. This group, with incomes between 100% FPL and 200% FPL, is intended to transition to subsidized private coverage through an insurance exchange in January, but many details remain unknown and the timing and viability of exchanges is uncertain.” Unless changed, they suggest “This will increase uncompensated care and worsen cost shifting”.

Those sending the letter included Mayo Clinic/Health System, Meriter (Hospital), Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, MGS, Ministry Health Care, RWHC, Affinity Health System Allina Health, Aspirus, WISCA, Aurora Health Care, and Brown County Medical Society.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin, a non profit group, points out that “One of the most important ways the new health care reform law expands coverage is filling the gaping holes in state Medicaid programs (BadgerCare) guaranteeing coverage to lowincome adults. Currently, there are over 140,000 low-income Wisconsinites on a waiting list for BadgerCare who are falling between the cracks. However the U.S. Supreme Court gave states the option of turning down the money.” They go on, Wisconsin’s Governor “decided in February to reject the money and offer an alternative plan which forces 88,000 people off BadgerCare, costs over $200 million more, and will cover fewer people. However, the decision is not final and Wisconsin can accept the money at any time”.

As mentioned, they suggest that the Governor’s alternative plan will force 88,000 people off BadgerCare and that his plan costs $200 million more in the current state budget but will cover fewer people.

A number of counties and county supervisors are considering introducing county resolutions requesting Wisconsin’s Governor to adjust his decision or allow counties interested to consolidate the Affordable Care Act in a way so they are better able to serve their uninsured, or those soon to be uninsured, county residents.

It should be pointed out that a number of conservative Republican governors have said yes to the new Medicaid program and its dollars under the Affordable Care Act. Wisconsin’s Governor has not.

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