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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Issue of the Week: Walker’s BadgerCare Math Doesn’t Add Up

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Republican Gov. Scott Walker is trumpeting new figures that show that 81,731 Wisconsinites living in poverty now “have access” to BadgerCare, the state’s version of Medicaid. But, much like Walker’s claims about his record on job creation, his BadgerCare boasts aren’t totally believable.

Walker, you may remember, refused to accept federal dollars to fund 100% of the costs to expand BadgerCare coverage to more low-income Wisconsinites as a majority of governors had done. Instead, he developed his idea of reform, which actually costs state residents more than $100 million in this two-year budget alone. In short, compared to the Affordable Care Act, Walker’s version of health care reform is more expensive, covers fewer people and sends more low-income Wisconsinites into the arms of the private insurance industry on the federal insurance exchange.

What Walker isn’t boasting about is the fact that his reforms have kicked 62,776 low-income Wisconsinites off of BadgerCare. That’s because they earn more than the federal poverty level, which is Walker’s new cut-off for this program. Walker hasn’t said yet if these former BadgerCare consumers have actually bought insurance on the marketplace, so we don’t know if these folks have insurance coverage. Although low-income Wisconsinites can get tax subsidies for their premiums, these subsidies don’t cover other out-of-pocket expenses such as co-pays and deductibles, which can really impact a struggling family’s household budget. Many, including Citizen Action of Wisconsin, are concerned that Wisconsinites who don’t earn high incomes will choose to not buy insurance on the exchange because they can’t afford the out-of-pocket costs charged by the private insurance companies.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin called out Walker on his shell-game reform and the lack of information about the 62,776 former BadgerCare users. In a letter sent to Walker last week, she wrote, “Without this information, Wisconsin taxpayers cannot hold you accountable to your promise to use Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act Marketplace to cut Wisconsin’s uninsured rate in half.”

Walker needs to come clean about the impact of his reform, but we know that he won’t. He’s in a competitive race for governor this fall and is trying to fool the public into thinking that he’s been a responsible steward of our tax dollars and truly cares about our state’s most vulnerable citizens. What we do know is that, like his promises about creating 250,000 jobs, his promises about the benefits of his health care reform just won’t add up.