Governor Walker, State Senator Shilling debate Medicaid plan

Report shows program costing taxpayers more than expected

Governor Walker, State Senator Shilling debate Medicaid plan

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - Governor Scott Walker is being criticized for his handling of the state's Medicaid program.

State Senator Jennifer Shilling says the Governor's actions have already cost the state $206 million, and could cost hundreds more.

Senator Shilling is referring to a report released by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. "I would like to see the Governor have a frank discussion with his administration and the federal government in finding a way that Wisconsinites, we could utilize this money," said Shilling.

Under the Affordable Care Act, if a state fully expands Medicaid to low income families, the federal government will fully cover the cost. But Governor Walker only partially expanded the program, losing out on the funding. For Wisconsin, that meant paying $206 million more in costs.

The governor said his decision was made, in part, because he doesn't trust the federal government to make good on their promise to pay. "Anybody who thinks a government at the federal level that is that far into debt and operating at a deficit is going to come through with the promises of new money at a time when they can't even make the current commitments they have, I think is living in a bit of a fantasy world," said Governor Walker.

"I think that is really ridiculous and a very weak argument, that's like saying that we're not going to believe that the federal government is going to come through on money for federal transportation dollars," said Shilling.

The discussion of what would have happened is taking a back seat to what could happen. The report says if the state continues with the current program for the next budget, they could lose up to $315 million.

While the Governor hasn't said whether he'll reconsider, he does say the current plan is helping. "The reality is we were able to do the things the Wisconsin way to cover everybody living in poverty for the first time in our State's history and not expose Wisconsin taxpayers to higher costs in the future," said Governor Walker.

What the governor is referring to is the reforms he put in place for Medicaid. Walker opened the program up to tens of thousands of childless adults living below the poverty line who were previously locked out because of a cap on the number of members.

The Governor has also blocked anyone who lives above the poverty line from signing up for Medicaid. He says they are eligible for health care on the federal online marketplace.

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