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Evers’ Medicaid expansion myths

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers is flexing his political muscle (he keeps it in a jar by the door), issuing yet another executive order calling a special legislative session to expand Medicaid.

The Republican-controlled Legislature can — and should — tell Evers to go pound sand. Medicaid expansion is a non-starter. As GOP lawmakers have said many times, all that “free” federal money isn’t free. Evers has been told that many, many times before. He’s pushing, mostly for appearance.

But here’s what Mr. Medicaid won’t tell Wisconsin:

If Evers were to expand Medicaid without the American Rescue Plan Act:

  • Currently, in Wisconsin, able-bodied childless adults, parents, and caretakers may be on Medicaid Assistance if their yearly income is 100 percent of the Federal poverty line or less.
  • If Medicaid is expanded, the eligibility to that same group would jump up to 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Line.
  • Of that expanded 38 percent, the federal government would cover 90 percent of that population.
    • Currently, the federal government covers 59 percent of the cost, leaving Wisconsin residents with 41 percent, or as was the case in 2019, $4.53 billion General Program Revenue.
  • Here’s the catch: That 90 percent expansion coverage DOES NOT include parents or caregivers, just childless adults.

What Evers is currently trying to do by expanding Medicaid with the assistance of the ARPA:

  • With federal American Rescue Plan Act funds, Wisconsin would receive a 5 percent boost in federal assistance to cover Medicaid enrollees for all demographics. This does not include the additional 90 percent already given to the state if Medicaid is expanded.
  • Here’s the catch: That 5 percent boost will end after two years. How will the budget be rectified when the assistance is gone? More taxes?

What it all means:

  • Evers is expecting 91,000 enrollees when Medicaid is expanded.
    • 37,930 would be childless adults and 52,989 would be newly enrolled parents and caretakers.
    • REMEMBER: Government assistance DOES NOT cover those 52,989 newly-enrolled people. The 5 percent assistance with the ARPA helps, but again, it disappears after 2 years.
  • Due to the increase in enrollees, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates that it would cost $756.3 million in new spending, leaving SPECIFICALLY Wisconsinites on the hook for $179.7 million in new taxes.
  • $179.7 of $756.3 doesn’t seem too bad, but just in case Democrats forget, Wisconsin citizens are still American citizens and have to pay federal taxes, which is who will have to pay that $576.6 million difference.

Evers is failing to account for the mistakes of the past:

  • Evers would like everyone to believe that only 91,000 people will join the expansion. But history has shown that is just wrong.
  • According to a Galen Institute study, states that joined in on the initial expansion saw, on average, 50 percent above the federal government enrollment projections.
    • California expected 800,000 enrollees and had 2.3 million.
    • Illinois expected 300,000 enrollees and had more than 600,000.
    • Ohio expected 447,000 by 2020. In 2017, enrollment totaled 720,000. This spike caused Medicaid Assistance spending to increase by $6.8 BILLION from FY13 to FY17.

Evers is also failing to think about the ramifications this will have to the already diminished workforce in Wisconsin:

  • A 2014 Center for Poverty & Inequality Research report found “that public health insurance may lead to lower rates of employment and earnings among low-income childless adults. These findings may have implications for the Affordable Care Act.”
  • In a time when Wisconsin is already struggling to find workers in the workplace because of incredibly high unemployment payments, do we want to give more people the incentive to stay home?

The verdict is already in from Republican leaders.

“If the Governor were serious about the proposals he packed into this bill, he could fund each one of them today with the mountain of federal funds at his direct disposal,” Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) and Senate Majority Leader Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) said in a statement. “This is a thinly-veiled political maneuver by the Governor. We intend to gavel out this unserious stunt.”

So why is Evers’ pulling this trick during budget-writing season? It’s all political. The Democrat’s eye is on the campaign of 2022, not the next biennial budget and the cost to taxpayers ahead.

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