La Crosse County votes in favor of BadgerCare advisory referendum

Advisory referendum on minimum wage also passed

Voters in La Crosse County voted in favor of two advisory referendums on Tuesday.

Voters were asked if the governor should accept federal funding available for the expansion of Medicaid/BadgerCare in Wisconsin. The advisory referendum passed with 71-percent of voters in favor and 29-percent against.

Voters were also asked if the minimum wage in Wisconsin should be set at $10.10/hour, annually indexed to inflation. The advisory referendum passed with 61-percent in favor and 39-percent against.

PREVIOUS STORY (October 1, 2014):

La Crosse County residents will be asked to weigh in on more than just the candidates on the upcoming November election.

The numbers are in and there are still many Wisconsinites struggling to find health insurance after having to leave BadgerCare earlier this year but some local officials have a plan to bring the issue back into the spotlight.

The La Crosse County Board has added an advisory referendum to the ballot. When voters head to the polls in about a month, they will be asked if they want the state to accept federal funds for BadgerCare, which is a program to provide healthcare to low income residents.

By putting it on the ballot, officials are hoping to encourage the governor to take a second look at federal funds this November.

Last year, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker made the decision to decline federal funds when it comes to BadgerCare because he wants people to take control of their own healthcare.

“To think the governor would turn down such a huge pot of money as being offered through expanded Medicare just because of ideological reasons is really incomprehensible,” said Monica Kruse, chair of the health and human services committee.

The decision ultimately forced more than 65,000 Wisconsinites off the program.

“These individuals not only could have stayed on BadgerCare, but many more could have newly gained access to it if the state of Wisconsin had accepted federal funds,

but instead we have the opposite,” said Kevin Kane, with the Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

Over the year, many found coverage through the marketplace, while others went through private insurance companies but more than a third, or about 26,000, are still without coverage in Wisconsin.

“There are over 1,000 people just in Monroe, Vernon and La Crosse alone that are stuck in this coverage gap,” said Kane.

In La Crosse County, more than 1,200 people had to leave BadgerCare. Almost 500 are still without insurance. In Jackson County, more than 300 residents were removed with about half still looking for another option.

“For me as a local elected official, there are nearly 500 of our neighbors and friends who are without coverage and that is not right,” said Tara Johnson, chair of the La Crosse County Board.

In a final effort to change the governor’s mind, the La Crosse County Board has added an advisory referendum to the November ballot.

“We have tried passing resolutions, we have communicated with governor and state legislature to no avail and so an advisory referendum is really the best tool that we have a s a community to chime in on an issue that is of importance to us,” said Johnson.

Because the referendum is advisory, a “Yes” vote would only lets Walker know what the residents want. If he changes his mind, which he can do at any time, over the next seven years, La Crosse County alone would take in an estimated $117 million to help uninsured residents gain affordable coverage.

La Crosse County is just one of about 20 other counties across the state that will have the advisory referendum on the ballot.