Strengthening BadgerCare and providing a public option would lower costs and provide more stable health insurance coverage for families.
Even as former President Donald Trump promised to try again to “terminate” the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Wisconsin progressives doubled down on their own promise to expand healthcare coverage and make it more affordable for working families.
Trump, who remains the leading candidate for the Republican nomination despite facing 91 felony criminal indictments in four separate cases, put a post on his Truth Social account last Sunday that criticized Republicans who refused to “terminate” the ACA—adding “we should never give up.” Democrats immediately amplified the post and considered it a political gift, given the strong and growing public support for affordable health care. “Christmas has come early” for Democrats and President Joe Biden, reported Axios.
Trump Wants ‘Termination,’ Democrats Want Expansion
Robert Kraig, executive director for Citizen Action Wisconsin, told UpNorthNews Radio the better path would be for Wisconsin Republicans to take advantage of an ACA provision that would expand and strengthen Medicaid—better known in Wisconsin under the name BadgerCare. For more than a decade, Republicans in the Legislature have blocked BadgerCare expansion, leaving Wisconsin as one of only 10 states in the country missing out on the extra federal funding that would cover more families.
By not expanding Medicaid coverage, Wisconsin Republicans have caused the state to miss out on $1.2 billion in additional federal funds—in addition to billions more in previous budget cycles since the ACA took effect.
Kraig said Wisconsin was once a leader in Medicaid coverage because it was embraced by former Gov. Tommy Thompson, but Republicans starting with former Gov. Scott Walker began opposing it for political purposes.
“It’s extremely popular,” Kraig said of expanding Medicaid. “What’s been happening, though, since the Legislature was hopelessly gerrymandered in 2011 is that we have gone from a state that had the most Medicaid enrollment and the program that helped the most people to one of the least because Scott Walker did the irrational thing for political reasons and decided to pay a lot more, over $1.5 billion on average over each two-year state budget, in order to cover fewer people.”
One Step Further: A Public Option
Democratic legislators have introduced a bill that would also add a public option to BadgerCare, allowing families to buy into Medicaid coverage and use ACA subsidies to help make premiums affordable. Democrats say small businesses could also buy into BadgerCare at a lower cost and provide coverage without the higher deductibles and claim denials common in private insurance. Right now, the lawmakers say, only about one-third of small businesses can afford to provide their workers with health insurance options.
“It’s a win for Wisconsin taxpayers and a win for the tens of thousands of individuals who will be newly covered under the expansion by receiving access to affordable, high-quality health care,” said Rep. Daniel Riemer (D-Milwaukee), one of the bill sponsors. ”Accepting the expansion is a no-brainer. I hope my Republican colleagues will finally do the fiscally responsible thing and support this bill to make our state, the Badger State, stronger.”
Dems Target Van Orden Over ACA
The fate of the Affordable Care Act will be debated not only in the presidential and legislative races, but congressional ones, too. Wisconsin Democrats are already targeting US Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-Prairie du Chien)—not only for past remarks supporting ACA repeal but for a campaign website that looks forward to a time when “ObamaCare is fully repealed and a new system is implemented, allowing for true competition in healthcare, driving costs down.”
Van Orden does not provide any alternative plan, nor has any Republican alternative emerged in the 13 years since ACA passage that provides equal or better coverage at the same or lower costs.
“Trump and Van Orden’s vision for Wisconsin is to kick people off their insurance, skyrocket health care costs, and roll back President Biden’s work to make prescription drugs more affordable,” said Democratic Party of Wisconsin Communications Director Joe Oslund. “While Republicans continue trying to gut lifesaving policies, Senator Tammy Baldwin and President Biden are fighting to make health care more affordable and accessible for Wisconsinites and all Americans.”
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