Medicaid Expansion: How We Bounce Back by DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake

This week, Wisconsin’s budget committee voted – yet again – to turn down the opportunity to expand the state’s Medicaid program, thereby eliminating the opportunity to provide health care and long-term care services for more Wisconsinites and declining more than $1.6 billion in federal funding. The $1.6 billion in new federal resources is the best way to bolster our health system and help Wisconsin bounce back by investing in the people of our state, their businesses, their families, their health care providers, and their health.

People across Wisconsin need the health care, nursing home care, home care, and more that the Medicaid program provides. And as taxpayers, they deserve to have their fair share of federal tax dollars returned to Wisconsin to pay for these important services. A total of 38 states have adopted Medicaid expansion, plus Washington, D.C. We are one of only 12 states that has not. By staying on the sidelines, we are all losing out on significant resources.

By moving ahead to expand Medicaid, we will see real impact on real lives.

Melissa, a small business owner, will feel more secure knowing her employees are able to access affordable health care coverage.

Andy, a Wisconsin resident with cerebral palsy, will get better care because the caregivers who make it possible for him to live and work at home will be able to take on more hours without worrying about going over the income limits and losing their BadgerCare Plus coverage.

Zena, who lives with a chronic illness caused by a norovirus infection, could pick up more hours at work and maintain her BadgerCare Plus coverage, including coverage for the only medication suitable to treat her condition. There is no generic alternative, and this single prescription costs $6,000 each month.

Covering more Wisconsinites and drawing down more federal funds through Medicaid expansion will support our health care and long-term care providers. Wisconsin could increase payment rates to hospitals, doctors, mental health therapists, and nursing homes. As more people gain coverage, providers also have fewer patients for whom no payment is available.

Taking steps to improve the health of low-income families and individuals, and the financial solvency of our health care system, will strengthen our state’s economy and enable us to bounce back faster. And accepting $1.6 billion in federal funding – our fair share of the taxes people have paid, and will continue to pay into the system – will provide Wisconsin the opportunity to make far-reaching investments in our state.

Past legislatures and our past Governor decided not to step up to the plate and make this common-sense change to our state’s Medicaid program. Those short-sighted decisions have left hundreds of millions of our tax dollars in Washington and made it harder for tens of thousands of Wisconsinites to access the health care they and their families need. We can’t turn back the clock and recoup that funding, but we can make a different decision going forward. We can expand Medicaid, improve the health and well-being of our fellow Wisconsinites, invest in our state, and help Wisconsin bounce back.