Republican Gov. Scott Walker says he will reject millions of dollars in federal funding that would have expanded Wisconsin's Medicaid program, known as BadgerCare, to an estimated 175,000 childless adults. The funding is available through the Affordable Care Act.
Walker made the announcement Wednesday during a meeting with business and health care leaders in Madison.
Walker's plan would tighten the income threshold to qualify for Medicaid, but also lift the cap on a program that covers childless adults. He says the net effect would insure 224,580 more people.
"How do we go from dependence to independence," said Walker, explaining his overall vision for reforming entitlements in Wisconsin.
Walker explained that it's part of a larger plan to reform government assistance and reducing the number of people on unemployment.
"Not because we kicked them out to the streets but because instead we're empowering them to control their own destiny through a job in the private sector," said Walker. "That means more freedom and more prosperity for them and all the rest of us in the state."
(I feel) "betrayed because I voted for him twice," said Aaron Oldre, one of the thousands of people in Wisconsin directly impacted by the decision.
Had Wisconsin accepted the funds, Oldre and all of the other people on the BadgerCare waiting list would have received health insurance.
"I haven't had a full time job since 2008," said Oldre, who lives in Chaseburg.
Oldre works part time but is limited in what jobs he can take because he has epileptic seizures. One such seizure a few years ago almost bankrupted him.
"My parents, thank God, footed the bill for me because I could not have afforded it. The bill was probably what I make in a year," said the uninsured 28-year-old.
Governor Walker says reforming the system is better way to go because the federal government often promises more money than it actually delivers.
"For those out there who are saying there's this federal money out there for expansion and other things like that, well the federal government isn't even paying in this budget what it costs to continue what we anticipated would have been there (in federal funding)," said Walker.
Walker was among the last Republican governors to decide whether to move forward with the expansion. Six Republican governors have agreed to the Medicaid expansion.
Wisconsin's hospitals and many medical and health advocacy groups had urged Walker to accept the federal money to pay for the expansion of services.