Wisconsin Could Expand Healthcare and Get $1.6 Billion From the Feds. GOP Says ‘No.’

Robin Vos, Tyler August, Jim Steineke



By Jonathon Sadowski

May 19, 2021

Along with better health coverage statewide, Evers highlights numerous projects throughout the state that could be funded with the additional federal dollars that come with BadgerCare expansion.

Gov. Tony Evers on Wednesday called a special session for the Legislature to consider taking federal Medicaid money to expand BadgerCare, a move that would bring health coverage to 90,000 additional low-income state residents and an additional $1.6 billion in federal funds over the next two years. And he drew a direct line between covering more people, taking in more funding, and putting the money right to work in specific projects across the state.

The special session, scheduled for noon on Tuesday, May 25, is already doomed to fail, as Republicans who control both chambers of the Legislature have repeatedly and vehemently opposed the measure. The Legislature’s Republican leaders in a joint statement said they plan to quickly gavel out of the session.

Evers appears to be using the session as a political tool to once again put Republicans on the record to opposing expansion—which had 70% public support in the most recent Marquette Law School Poll on the topic—and the slew of investments that could be made with the additional federal funding that would come with it. BadgerCare expansion was one of the cornerstones of Evers’ 2021-23 state budget proposal, but Republicans on the Legislature’s budget-writing committee removed that item along with about 380 others earlier this month.

“It’s time for Republicans to put politics aside, and let’s work together to invest in economic development and recovery efforts across our state,” Evers said in a statement.

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke and Senate President Chris Kapenga dismissed the session as an “unserious stunt.”

RELATED: Republicans Blow $3.4 Billion Hole in Budget, Cut 380 Items Evers Proposed

Evers paired the notice with a five-and-a-half page list of what he would use some of the additional $1.6 billion on. The proposal would fund projects across the state, from remediating harmful chemicals known as PFAS to funding rural emergency medical services to expanding broadband.

Democrats and left-leaning groups immediately praised Evers’ announcement.

“It is long overdue for the State of Wisconsin to stop wasting hundreds of millions of public dollars to cover fewer people,” said Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, in a statement.  

Main Street Alliance of Wisconsin, a progressive small business lobby, issued a statement highlighting potential benefits for businesses if BadgerCare were expanded.

“The fact is, expanding Badgercare is good for business,” the group said. “Many of our members across the state want to provide group employer-provided healthcare but in most cases it is far too expensive for them and their employees.”

Joe Zepecki of Protect Our Care Wisconsin, an advocacy group for the Affordable Care Act, said it’s time for Republicans to get over the law’s approval in 2010.

“It’s one thing for a legislator to oppose a public policy passed by a President they didn’t like a decade ago. It’s another thing entirely for them to choose fiscally irresponsible intransigence over projects that will create jobs and strengthen their local community,” Zepecki said. “By connecting the dots for Republican legislators and demonstrating what the cost of GOP obstruction on health care is, Gov. Evers is showing every Wisconsin family what is possible if Republicans are finally willing to do the right thing.”




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