LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)—Wednesday afternoon, Governor Walker announced he is rejecting the federal Medicaid expansion, an optional portion of the Affordable Care Act.
The Medicaid expansion would expand coverage to those childless adults making 133 percent of the poverty level. The federal government would pay for most of the expansion, but states would have to pay for 10 percent of the cost by 2020.
Instead of the expansion, Walker announced entitlement reform that will allow any person living at or below the poverty line access to Medicaid. Then those making up to four times the poverty level, will receive federal health insurance premium subsidies to purchase insurance from the heath insurance exchange. The governor says the plan will reduce the number of uninsured childless adults by 50 percent.
In a statement about the proposal, Walker said, "With these Medicaid reforms, we will preserve an essential safety net for our neediest, while protecting our state's taxpayers from uncertainty. In Wisconsin, we made tough, but prudent, decisions in the last two years to get our state on the right track. We truly understand the consequences of avoiding tough choices. Our plan safeguards Wisconsin taxpayers from unnecessary risk and builds on Wisconsin's strong track record of providing affordable health care to our people."
Mayo Clinic Health System says it's pleased with Walker's announcement, as it will increase the number of insured Wisconsinites.
"It's our understanding, based on the data that was shared, that this would reduce the number of uninsured individuals, childless adults in the state, by about 225,000 people," said Joe Kruse, the Chief Administrative Officer at Mayo Clinic Health System. "So that's definitely a step in the right direction from our prospective. And we applaud any efforts that the state or anyone else really, can take on that would help reduce the number of uninsured in the state."
Michael Richards, Executive Director of External Affairs at Gundersen Lutheran Health System also released a statement following the announcement. Richards says, "Gundersen Lutheran's number one priority is to provide high-quality care for all patients no matter their level of insurance coverage. Today's decision by the governor is the first step in a long process. Many questions remain, not just in Wisconsin, but at the federal level as insurance exchanges begin to take effect. Gundersen Lutheran looks forward to working with the Governor, Wisconsin State Legislature and representatives in Congress to help guide solutions for our patients and their families."
Meanwhile, Democrats, who had urged Walker to accept the Medicaid expansion are not pleased with the Governor's proposal.
Democrat Senator Jennifer Shilling said in a statement, "Access to health care is a key component of rebuilding Wisconsin's middle class. It is one of the most important stepping stones for helping low income people become middle class, and helping those already in the middle class stay there. Governor Walker's short-sighted decision leaves Wisconsin's middle class families stranded in the waiting room. By turning away federal funding, Wisconsin taxpayers will pay more out of their own pockets and thousands will be denied access to affordable health care."
Democrat State Representative Jill Billings echoed Shillings statement saying, "Rather than pursuing a path that would increase access to health care, create jobs, and save the state money, Governor Walker has instead created a complicated shell game designed to draw attention away from the fact that he is playing politics with people's ability to get access to healthcare."
The changes to Medicaid will go in to effect when the health care exchanges opens in January of 2014.
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