Expanding BadgerCare in Wisconsin could become an even sweeter deal

Under new COVID bill, $1.3 billion would be dangled in front of Wisconsin, but only if it expands Medicaid

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 21: Disabled people carry signs as they protest cuts to Medical and Medicare on September 21, 2011 in San Francisco, California. Dozens of disabled people staged a protest against proposed cuts to Medical, Medicare and Medicaid programs.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 21: Disabled people carry signs as they protest cuts to Medical and Medicare on September 21, 2011 in San Francisco, California. Dozens of disabled people staged a protest against proposed cuts to Medical, Medicare and Medicaid programs. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

U.S. House Democrats are trying again to entice holdout states, including Wisconsin, to expand Medicaid coverage with the prospect of billions of dollars in federal cash. This money would be on top of the already large net benefits the state would realize under existing law through expansion.

Wisconsin is one of just a dozen states that has held back on expanding Medicaid coverage, also known as BadgerCare, leaving a huge source of federal funding on the table that could provide coverage for additional Wisconsinites.

In Wisconsin, Medicaid expansion has remained a partisan standoff, begun during national and state Republicans’ early rejection of the Affordable Care Act. It continues to come up regularly with Gov. Tony Evers and legislative Democrats as strong supporters of expansion and the resources that come with it, while legislative Republicans have fought it, refusing to consider it in past state budgets or as part of the efforts to combat COVID-19. It was one of the items Evers wanted in a COVID-19 relief bill, but was left out of compromise legislation because it remains unacceptable to Republicans.

Speaker Robin Vos at 11/17/20 news conference
Speaker Robin Vos at 11/17/20 news conference

“Expanding BadgerCare has always made financial sense for the state, and Speaker Vos has known it since day one,” says Joe Zepecki with the advocacy group Protect Our Care. “The question now that the cost of saying “no” is about to be even costlier is whether or not the hospitals and providers getting creamed by the pandemic will finally make it clear to Republicans that enough is enough. If Democrats in Congress can manage to make what was already a common sense, no-brainer, slam dunk of a decision even more attractive, then even Wisconsin Republicans should be able to figure out how to get to yes.”

Melanie Conklin
Melanie Conklin is proud to be a native of the state of Wisconsin, which gave humankind the typewriter, progressivism and deep-fried cheese curds. Her several decades in journalism include political beats and columns at Isthmus newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications. When not an ink-stained wretch, she served time inside state, local and federal government in communications. She is excited to be back at the craft of journalism as Deputy Editor of the Wisconsin Examiner. It’s what she’s loved ever since getting her master’s degree in journalism from the UW-Madison. Her family includes one husband, two kids, four dogs and five (or more) chinchillas.
Daniel C. Vock
Daniel C. Vock is a Washington-based correspondent for States Newsroom.