State News

Controversy over the ACA continues, GOP dismantles Evers’ health care budget

GOP legislators on the Joint Committee on Finance voted to cut the funding in Gov. Tony Evers' biennial budget that would have financed a Medicaid expansion providing health care for 82,000 Wisconsinites. 

GOP legislators on the Joint Committee on Finance voted to cut the funding in Gov. Tony Evers' biennial budget that would have financed a Medicaid expansion providing health care for 82,000 Wisconsinites. 

Image By: Téalin Robinson

Proposed funding by Gov. Tony Evers to expand Medicaid and support BadgerCare Plus was stripped during a vote by the Joint Committee on Finance after weeks of rewriting the biennial budget on Tuesday. 

Despite running his campaign on a promise to protect the Affordable Care Act, Evers’ plans for health services spending failed to pass the Republican-held JCF despite all Democratic members of the committee voting against it. 

The 11-4 vote also cut finances intending to legalize marijuana, increase minimum wage and create a nonpartisan committee for redrawing legislative and congressional district boundaries. 

Democratic legislators are calling the vote fiscally and morally irresponsible pointing to about a  billion dollar loss of funding for Wisconsinites.

“Republicans continue to turn away the $1.6 billion in federal funds we could draw down to use for additional health care investments,” Minority Leader Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, said in a statement. “This forces state taxpayers to backfill these costs and pay twice for the same services. The Republican plan, when compared to the Governor’s plan, costs taxpayers $300 million more to get $1 billion less.”

“We have definitive proof that in the 29 states that have expanded Medicaid, there is a positive impact on financial well-being,” Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-West Point, said. “Not only does it bring the cost of health insurance premiums down and prevent medical bankruptcies for individuals, but it also allows us to access pots of money we wouldn’t otherwise be able to — large sums of money.”

Rejecting the ACA removed potential for federal supports, forcing the JCF to increase the state’s own spending on health care services in exchange. 

This was seen through an expanded budget for nursing homes, direct caregivers and free and charitable clinics, which Republican legislators believe will not increase private insurance costs –– unlike Medicaid. 

A report from the Institute for Reforming Government wrote that Wisconsin’s current health care system can be seen as a example of positive state-based reform, which relies on itself rather than federal supports. 

Over the last 20 years the number of Wisconsinites on Medicaid has more than doubled. Despite this increase, the Assembly GOP tweeted that there is no coverage gap and therefore no need for welfare expansion. 

“Our DHS priorities reflect those of Wisconsinites across the state,” Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, Co-Chair of the JCF tweeted. “These are the biggest issues we heard while we traveled around the state. We are proud to support these at higher levels than Gov. Evers.” 

In an opposing response, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin will be sponsoring a Week of Action from June 8 to 15 encouraging volunteers to canvass and make phone calls to pressure Republican legislators to expand Medicaid with support by Evers.

"Republicans are barricading hospital doors by blocking urgently needed health care funds from returning to Wisconsin,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Ben Wikler said in a statement. “In doing so they are also punishing the overwhelming majority of Wisconsinites who support expanding Medicaid.”

Evers cited a statistic from the past Marquette Poll in arguing that the vote was political play by the GOP.

“70% of Wisconsinites support Medicaid expansion,” Evers said. “It’s not just the fiscally responsible thing to do — it’s what the people want. I appreciate that the will of the people is the law of the land. Last night’s vote shows that the GOP thinks otherwise.”

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