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Medicaid expansion, the less-than-Pennywise policy liberals won’t let die

By Will Flanders, Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty   MADISON —Much like the soon-to-be-released “It” sequel, Medicaid Expansion in Wisconsin is a policy that Democrats will never let die.  Last month, Rep. Daniel Riemer (D-Milwaukee) and Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-West Point) introduced a bill supporting Medicaid expansion, attempting to restore something that Republicans in the Legislature wisely cut from Governor Tony Evers’ budget.  In a press release supporting the legislation, Rep. Robyn Vining (D-Wauwatosa) touts a couple of half-truths that are worthy of shining some light on. First is the claim that Wisconsin is forgoing “our money” by not taking expansion. While it is true that Wisconsin could receive additional federal funds if expansion were taken, this is not a state that fails to receive its “fair share.” While far from being one of the most dependent states, Wisconsin gets back about $1.18 from the federal government for every $1 paid in taxes, according to an analysis from the Mises Institute. We already get our fair share, and to say otherwise is misleading.  Perhaps this legislation would still be worthwhile if the other part of Vining’s statement was justifiable: “Furthermore, it is estimated that the cost of private premiums purchased on the marketplace will go down by 19% with Medicaid expansion. To deny small business owners and residents across Wisconsin this reduction in costs is irresponsible and just plain picking politics over people.” Indeed, there is a study that makes this claim, and we don’t directly quibble with it here. But what is glossed over by the representative is that these ostensible savings only occur to those on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) marketplace. According to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, only about 6% of Wisconsin families get their health care through the exchanges. The remaining 59% of Wisconsinites get their insurance through employer-sponsored plans, or through Medicare and Medicaid. Two studies using different sets of data estimated a substantial cost to those with private insurance from the implementation, ranging from $44 million to $400 million. In other words, we will potentially save money for a small percentage of Wisconsin families that get their health care on the exchanges while raising costs for a much larger share. Despite what Bernie Sanders and others on the left may desire, there is still no such thing as a free lunch. The left’s obsession with Medicaid expansion is about one thing: adding more Wisconsinites to government-run health care. There was a time when enrollment in the ACA exchange was their goal. But now Democrats appear committed to moving eligible Wisconsinites who qualify for heavily subsidized private health care on the ACA exchange to Medicaid. The only explanation is an ideological commitment to government health care — for all.  This must be resisted. Rather than moving in the direction of more government control of health care, the Legislature would do well to give full consideration to proposals that move us in the opposite direction.  Proposals to create a dental therapy license and to bolster the legal status of Direct Primary Care providers would work to remove government barriers to free market competition in health care. It’s time to leave behind the antiquated, failed policies of the Obama-era that Medicaid expansion represents, and work toward a new model of health care that empowers patients and doctors over insurance companies.  Will Flanders, PH.D., is research director at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including the Wall Street Journal, National Review, and Politico.

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