MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin could save more than $1.6 billion over the next two years by expanding Medicaid to cover nearly 91,000 additional low-income people, a move Republicans continue to block.
The federal COVID-19 relief bill Congress passed Wednesday would provide Wisconsin more than $1 billion in new, temporary savings if the state adopts Gov. Tony Evers’ call for providing Medicaid benefits to more people, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said in a memo reported on by the Wisconsin State Journal.
The Democratic governor has proposed expanding Medicaid in his state budget, but Republicans have opposed doing that for a decade now and show no signs of budging. Thirty-eight other states have expanded Medicaid.
“It’s a nonstarter and we will continue to oppose the liberal wish list item of Medicaid expansion,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said.
Republicans have long argued the state can’t count on the federal government to maintain its level of funding, leaving the state with higher costs to cover people enrolled in Medicaid.
The additional $1 billion in federal money would be for two years, but that is on top of $635 million the state would save over two years due to a higher federal reimbursement through Medicaid expansion.
That is too much money to ignore, said Democratic state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, of West Point.
“There is absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t provide more affordable, quality coverage, while lowering health insurance premiums and accessing a billion more in funding for our state,” Erpenbach said. “To reject BadgerCare expansion would be a costly missed opportunity and a slap in the face to every Wisconsin resident.”
Accepting federal money available through the Affordable Care Act would increase the minimum income threshold to qualify from 100% of the federal poverty rate to 138%, which would increase the income eligibility for a single person from $12,880 a year to $17,774.
According to a 2018 report by the state fiscal bureau, Wisconsin would have received an additional $2.8 billion in savings between 2013 and 2019 under full Medicaid expansion.