It has been a year since Governor Walker and the conservative legislature rejected billions in federal funds to fill in the holes in BadgerCare, and the negative consequences of the disastrous decision continue to mount.
Using state figures, we calculate Wisconsin is leaving up to $1 million a day on the table by not accepting enhanced federal Medicaid dollars provided by the Affordable Care Act. One million dollars a day is a serious amount of money, enough to cover 84,700 people on BadgerCare.
Access to BadgerCare is a matter of grave importance for low-income Wisconsinites. The reason Wisconsin created BadgerCare on a bipartisan basis and that the Affordable Care Act extends Medicaid to our neighbors near the bottom of the income scale is because they do not have the discretionary income to afford the basics (like food, rent and transportation) and pay the premiums, deductible and copays associated with private insurance. But because of Walker's callous disregard for their well being, hard-pressed working families had until the end of May to either sign up for more expensive private insurance at Healthcare.gov or go without.
This $1 million a day is a big loss to state government, but it does not include the extra costs paid by the working families needlessly denied BadgerCare. We estimate based on state figures that if the families denied BadgerCare sign up for private insurance, they will pay $26 million a year more in deductibles alone, not including additional co-pays and premiums. Although the Affordable Care Act provides generous tax credits to help Americans afford health coverage, it was not designed to provide enough help for people near the federal poverty line. That is why these Wisconsin families were supposed to get BadgerCare!
Given what he and his conservative allies in the legislature are doing to these hard-pressed working families, it is absolutely stunning that Gov. Walker actually takes credit in his first reelection television ad for providing more health care access. Clearly Walker and his political advisers are worried he will be punished in November by voters who believe it is immoral to leave over a $1 million a day on the table that could have made health coverage affordable for hard-pressed working families.
The impact of Walker's decision will grow every month because more and more working families will either seek emergency care without a form of payment, or, if they buy private insurance, face co-pays and deductibles they can't afford when they utilize medical care. Many will be unable to pay all of their medical bills. This will impact medical providers, who will in turn will shift the cost, raising the price of health insurance and medical services for everyone in Wisconsin.
Fortunately, Wisconsin still has the opportunity to accept billions in federal funds for BadgerCare. These federal funds can be accepted at any time. Every day the governor and legislature fail to act, Wisconsin throws away $1 million dollars, and working families pay the price.
Robert Kraig is the executive director and Kevin Kane is the lead organizer of Citizen Action of Wisconsin (www.citizenactionwi.org).