Tuesday, May 21, 2013

BadgerCare Advocates Debunk Republicans’ Health Care Myth

By Lisa Kaiser
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Advocates for an Affordable Care Act-expanded Medicaid program in Wisconsin have been calling on Gov. Scott Walker to listen to reason and accept roughly $4 billion in federal funds to offer BadgerCare programs to more low-income Wisconsinites.

Their latest attempt to provide Republicans with a reality check is to shoot down the GOP's allegation that the funding under the ACA is somehow not reliable. The tea partiers—including Walker and Congressman Paul Ryan—say that if Wisconsin expands BadgerCare with 100% federal money now, the state won’t be able to rely on those funds in the future and state taxpayers will be stuck footing the bill.

This is what is allegedly keeping Republicans up at night.

During a Citizen Action of Wisconsin-organized conference call with reporters today, BadgerCare advocates took on the alleged “unreliability” of the ACA funds.

Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action, called Republicans’ worries “the opposite of true.”

He noted that about 28% of Walker’s proposed biennial budget is made up of federal dollars and much of that consists of appropriations that members of Congress must act on each year. You know, federal funds for education and highways and law enforcement. Things like that. These unreliable funds are what Walker feels are so reliable they belong in his budget.

The ACA funds, on the other hand, are written into law as part of Medicaid. Like Social Security, Medicare and the rest of the Medicaid program, they are mandatory.

If members of Congress like Paul Ryan wanted to shut the ACA down and make it less reliable they’d have to rewrite the law, pass it in both houses, then convince President Obama (or whomever succeeds him) to sign it.

Ryan can threaten to do it, but it's just not going to happen anytime soon.

Former Democratic Congressman Dave Obey, the longtime chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said he was “amazed and flabbergasted” by Walker’s refusal to take the $4 billion in federal funds, and said he never wanted to hear any more complaints about Wisconsin being shortchanged when it comes to federal dollars flowing back into the state.

This money is “tied down specifically in law,” Obey said, with a presumption that it would continue.

Jon Peacock, the research director for the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, said the more he looked at Walker’s proposal “the more perplexed I become.”

Well, that’s because Peacock is looking at this rationally. Walker’s own Medicaid proposal would cost state taxpayers an additional $100 million in the next two-year budget while providing coverage for fewer people. It makes no sense.

In reality, Walker is refusing federal funds to provide access to health insurance so that he can raise his national profile with tea party contributors. Walker’s plan is utterly political, not practical.

Let’s hope that members of the Joint Finance Committee are just as perplexed by Walker’s plan as Peacock is.

 

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