Wisconsin could save $345 million over the next two years if it adopts a full expansion of Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act, according to a new estimate prepared by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
The revised estimate comes as the Legislature gears up to consider Gov. Scott Walker’s $68 billion biennial budget, which cuts $300 million from the University of Wisconsin System among other austerity measures in the face of a more than $2 billion shortfall.
Full Medicaid expansion would cover all adults under age 65 in households living at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Since April 2014, Wisconsin has covered all childless adults living at or below 100 percent of the federal poverty level, leaving those between 100 and 133 percent to buy subsidized insurance on federal exchanges.
Walker and Legislative Republicans have rejected arguments for accepting the expansion, saying they worry the federal government will renege on its share of the funding in the future, leaving Wisconsin taxpayers on the hook.
The new estimate is $30 million to $84 million more than a previous estimate released in August. The increase is due to the enrollment by poor childless adults continuing to exceed expectations. The number for June 2015 is projected to be 152,000, a 12 percent jump from the August estimate.
Rep. Daniel Riemer, D-Milwaukee, proposed Monday a bill that would adopt a modified version of the Medicaid expansion that Republican Gov. Terry Branstad in Iowa won approval for in his state, despite objections from some Republican lawmakers.
Riemer said he doesn’t have any Republicans, who firmly control the Legislature, lined up to support the bill yet, but he said “my hope is to get unanimous support.”
The Iowa model would save Wisconsin $241 million over the next two years, according to the fiscal bureau. The primary difference between the Iowa model and full expansion is that childless adults between 100 and 133 percent of the federal poverty level would receive additional subsidies for health care exchanges, rather than be enrolled in Badgercare, the state’s Medicaid program.
The Iowa model would require a waiver from the federal government. The fiscal bureau estimates an additional 81,000 more would be covered through the end of the biennium, drawing in an additional $1.2 billion in federal funding to the state.
“There is no legitimate public policy reason not to take the money for BadgerCare,” Citizen Action of Wisconsin executive director Robert Kraig said at a press conference Tuesday.
Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, co-chair of the powerful budget committee, declined to comment Monday. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, could not immediately be reached for comment. Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said his office has not yet had a chance to review Riemer’s proposal.
Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, who said previously that he will discuss some kind of Medicaid expansion with his colleagues as they deliberate the budget, said Monday he thinks everything is worth talking about. But so far there hasn’t been much traction for expanding Medicaid.
“We’re talking about everything else but that,” he said.