By Cara Josephson
On Tuesday June 4th the Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee faced a crucial decision impacting the lives of nearly 90,000 residents. The question became simple although the solution goes beyond the shaky reasoning of denying individuals health care.
A critical element of the health care industry in Wisconsin is BadgerCare, health insurance for those in need. With health insurance soon becoming mandatory under the Affordable Care Act, President Obama is aiding in the transition, and has allocated more than $100 million for the state of Wisconsin for Medicaid.
Herein lies the problem. Republicans believe accepting federal money comes with more consequences than benefits. Under the guise of helping the state's poor and sick, the Joint Finance Committee and Governor Scott Walker decided to reject the federal money deviated for health care. Instead the Republicans turned to Walker's proposal to restructure Medicaid.
Governor Walker believes the federal government will be unable to fund the money allocated for BadgerCare in a sustainable way. So Walker proposed in his budget that anyone who makes at or below the poverty line could receive access to BadgerCare. Walker believes his plan will insure nearly 200,000 more individuals through kicking them into the federal health exchanges.
Not everyone in Wisconsin shares Walker's enthusiasm over turning down federal money. Democrats believe it is a vast mistake to reject the federal money and does not economically make sense in the long run. Not accepting the federal money will cost the state an extra $150 million dollars. Taxpayers are now expected to pay nearly $490 million GPR more between 2014 through the fiscal year 2021 due to the Governor's decision.
Costing taxpayers an extra chunk of change is unfortunately, not the worst aspect of Walker's proposal. Any citizen above the poverty line will not qualify for BadgerCare and will go onto the exchange, and depending on their level of income, may or may not qualify for a subsidy to help with costs. By forcing these citizens to transition into the federal insurance marketplace, nearly 90,000 people above the poverty line lose their BadgerCare insurance. These individuals will struggle to afford their own health insurance, a feat not so easily done in the exchanges.
In addition to forcing people off of BadgerCare, Wisconsin taxpayer dollars will not be returned to the state. Other states that accept Medicaid will receive the federal money originally pulled from Wisconsin taxpayers to benefit BadgerCare. Residents of Wisconsin will most likely have to pay more money to receive less health care to offset these costs.
By turning down the money not only will our hospitals be forced to enact cost savings measures that will likely cost people their jobs, it also prevents new jobs from coming into Wisconsin, something that the state desperately needs. Hospitals are likely to lose potential jobs to help pay for uninsured care and those who will only use the emergency room as a health care option.
The Joint Finance Committee added an amendment for an additional $75 million in subsidies for hospitals over the next two years. Unfortunately, this added money nowhere near makes up for the losses from the cuts in Medicaid.
Ultimately this means thousands of people will go without healthcare or will rely on costly emergency rooms as their only access to doctors. Walker's proposal will have detrimental impacts for Wisconsin's children, pregnant women, families, and for individuals. At what cost will Walker and the Republicans continue to take away help from those in need?
Cara Josephson is an intern at One Wisconsin Now. She will be a senior in the fall at UW-Madison majoring in Communication Arts.