Democrats, others call for Medicaid expansion

Walker has not said if he will take advantage of expansion

Published On: Feb 05 2013 02:38:08 PM CST   Updated On: Feb 05 2013 05:40:26 PM CST

Democratic lawmakers and health care advocates are calling on Gov. Scott Walker and Republicans who control the Legislature to expand Medicaid coverage as allowed under the federal health care overhaul law.

Walker has not said if he will take advantage of the voluntary expansion. He has indicated his decision won't be announced until when he releases his two-year state spending plan on Feb. 19.

Expanding Medicaid in Wisconsin as allowed could result in 175,000 uninsured childless adults getting coverage.

State Rep. Jon Richards of Milwaukee said Walker should follow the lead of other Republican governors who have agreed to take the federal money to pay for the expansion. Under the law, the federal government would pay for the added costs through 2016.

Wisconsin's Medicaid program is known as BadgerCare. Democrats and health care advocates on Tuesday unveiled the Strengthen BadgerCare Act," a measure meant to get the state to accept the additional federal funds.

"There are 170,000 people that could benefit directly and immediately if Scott Walker does the right thing, and that is to say yes to the money we send out to Washington," said Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton.

But the governor on Tuesday said his administration is still considering options, and he has some concerns about what costs could be down the road.

"We already have one of the lowest rates of those uninsured in the country," Walker said. "I think under the realistic options we're looking at there will be fewer people uninsured. The question is whether we take all the federal money that doesn't necessarily appear to be there, at least fully appropriated, right now."

Some Republicans pointed out that the federal money will simply get sent somewhere else in the country if Wisconsin turns it down.