In his second Inaugural address, President Obama described Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid as programs which “free us to take the risks that make this country great.” These programs don’t hinder America’s growth, but instead allow men and women the opportunity to challenge themselves without the fear of losing the ability to take care of their health.
This is why we need Medicaid, or BadgerCare, in Wisconsin. This medical assistance program has a disproportionately positive effect on the lives on women, as women tend to hold lower-income jobs, have higher rates of childcare responsibilities, and hold more jobs supported by Medicaid than men.
However, Governor Walker announced last week that he will not be requesting federal funding in order to fill the gaps in our Medicaid (BadgerCare) program as offered in the Affordable Care Act. While he will not announce more details regarding his plans around Medicaid until this Wednesday (February 20) at his budget address, Governor Walker has described a hybrid approach whereby some current Medicaid recipients (mostly parents over 200% of the FPL) will actually be made ineligible in order to make room for non-parents up to 100% of the FPL. Walker assumes that these newly uninsured will be able to find affordable insurance in the new health care Marketplace (exchanges) – however we believe this will merely make insurance inaccessible to more people under the guise of making them “independent.”
Raising Wisconsin Women’s Voices and Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health believes this decision will create a system where it is harder for low-income women and men to find affordable insurance, even though they may have access to the Marketplace. Partial expansions of Medicaid programs as proposed by Governor Walker are not what the Affordable Care Act intended, and more gaps in care than we expected to see will likely become the reality.
How is Medicaid Affected by the Affordable Care Act?
Last summer, the Affordable Care Act was for the most part entirely upheld by the Supreme Court. However, they ruled that states have the option of not expanding their Medicaid programs, as was in essence mandated by the original form of the law. States which choose to expand to the full extent of the ACA will receive a 100% reimbursement from the federal government for the first three years for all newly eligible enrollees. After that, the reimbursement will gradually fall to 90% by 2020. Partial expansions (below 138% of the poverty level) will not solicit additional federal reimbursement for state Medicaid costs; rates of funding will continue as they were before partial expansion. For Wisconsin, this means that federal funding would continue at only 59%.
It is estimated that expansion would end up saving states more money in the long-term than keeping Medicaid enrollment at its current rate – this is true in states such as Colorado, and likely Wisconsin as well.
What can we do?
As we arrive closer to the opening of the Marketplaces and state expansions of Medicaid across the nation, more people are expected to enroll in Medicaid. This will occur, even in states like Wisconsin without expansions, because of the individual mandate which will make enrollment easier. If you enroll within the Wisconsin Marketplace, the system will evaluate your application and inform you if you are in fact eligible for Medicaid. There will also be increased publicity about Medicaid eligibility. Therefore, stay informed on Wisconsin’s progress towards implementing the ACA, and be a resource for others who may not know their new options for health insurance.
Lastly, because of all the reasons we’ve outlined as to the importance of Medicaid for Wisconsin women, we support the Strengthen BadgerCare Act, a bill which has been introduced in the Wisconsin State Legislature. This bill outlines the steps necessary to expand our state BadgerCare programs. Use your voice, and a few moments of your time, and write or call your legislator in order to encourage them to support this bill. Even though Governor Walker has released his hybrid Medicaid expansion plan, the Wisconsin Legislature still must agree to his plan – therefore it’s not over yet!
Here at the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health we support the expansion of BadgerCare because it fills much of the gap in insurance coverage for women in our state!