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Erpenbach says he'll work with GOP on Medicaid deal

Gov. Walker proposed rejecting expansion

MADISON, Wis. - Democratic state Sen. Jon Erpenbach said he will be talking with Republican lawmakers about accepting a federally funded Medicaid expansion that ends after a certain period of time.

Erpenbach discussed the possible deal Tuesday at a health care conference.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker has proposed rejecting the Medicaid expansion in his state budget, which is subject to approval by the GOP-controlled Legislature.

Erpenbach said he knows of Republicans in the state Senate who have a difficult time with Walker's plan, which would result in turning away an estimated $4.4 billion in federal funding to expand Medicaid for 175,000 adults.

At the HealthWatch Wisconsin conference on Tuesday, Dennis Smith, outgoing secretary of the state Department of Health Services, defended Walker's plan.

"The cost of providing that coverage is the same, it's only which pocket it gets paid out of," Smith said.

Erpenbach and other Democratic lawmakers on a panel at the conference criticized Walker's plan and said it is motivated by politics, not what makes sense for the state.

"When I look at the Legislative Fiscal Bureau reports, I see some facts that are pretty clear to me looking at the issue, and that is under Gov. Walker's proposal, the state of Wisconsin will spend more money," said Bobby Peterson, executive director of ABC for Health, nonprofit that specializes in health care advocacy for Wisconsin's low-income residents.

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