Wisconsin could have saved $206 million in 2013-2015 if the state had accepted the Medicaid expansion allowed under the Affordable Care Act, according to a new memo from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

The potential savings is up significantly from the fiscal bureau’s estimate last year of $119 million, largely because more childless adults with incomes below the poverty level have signed up for coverage than expected.

Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature rejected federal funding to fully cover people with incomes up to 133 percent of the poverty level, or $26,321 for a family of three, through 2016.

The federal government says it would later cover at least 90 percent of the costs, up from its usual share of 60 percent for the state-federal Medicaid program.

The state instead said adults who earn up to 100 percent of the poverty level can be covered by Medicaid, or BadgerCare. That allowed at least 97,000 childless adults to gain coverage, but it shifted some 63,000 parents off the program since the previous cutoff was 200 percent of the poverty level.

But as of last month, total enrollment of childless adults exceeded 119,000, higher than the projected 98,600 for this year. Now, the enrollment is expected to grow to 135,000 by next June.

The unexpected surge of childless adults is the primary reason for the fiscal bureau’s new estimate of greater potential savings had the state accepted the federal expansion.

Another factor is that fewer parents below the poverty line have signed up for Medicaid than expected. That suggests, the fiscal bureau said, that fewer parents just above the poverty line would have enrolled under the full expansion, leading to even greater estimated savings than previously predicted.

Wisconsin could save $261 million to $315 million in 2015-2017 if it accepts the full expansion, the new fiscal bureau memo says.

The memo was requested and released by state Sen. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse.

“Putting partisan politics over people’s lives is one of the reasons that families in Wisconsin continue to struggle to make ends meet,” said Shilling, a member of the Legislature’s budget committee.

“Too many Wisconsin residents and working families are finding it difficult to get ahead because Republicans have blocked access to affordable health care.”

Walker has defended his decision not to expand, saying he doubts the federal government would honor its commitment to cover the costs.

The governor’s spokeswoman, Laurel Patrick, said in an email to The Associated Press that if anyone thinks the debt-saddled federal government won’t renege on its promises “they are not living in reality.”

She added, “Gov. Walker’s reforms ensure everyone living in poverty has access to health care through Medicaid, while protecting taxpayers from uncertain federal funding.”

The Fiscal Bureau’s memo represents another salvo in Democrats’ campaign to pressure governors who have rejected the expansion to reconsider. President Barack Obama’s administration released a report in July saying expansion would improve access to care, contain people’s costs and create jobs.

The report said expansion in Wisconsin would mean coverage for another 120,000 people by 2016 and reduce the number of people facing catastrophic out-of-pocket costs or borrowing to pay medical bills.

Democratic candidate Mary Burke has said she would accept the expansion and use the savings for other priorities such as education and economic development.

— Associated Press reporter

Todd Richmond contributed to this report.

Health and medicine reporter

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(13) comments

repubsaresheep
repubsaresheep

We can't have any facts get in the way of ideology!
Walker - the flat-earther of our time.

notakers
notakers

I don't trust the numbers the legislative fiscal bureau is giving us. To say the state could save $206 million over two years may be way to optimistic. A study in Oregon showed that after medicaid expansion, the number of visits to the emergency room increased 40%. Everyone expected those visits to fall since these people were finally on insurance but no one figured that general practitioners would not take medicaid patients because they don't pay very well and so they end up in emergency. Emergency room service is a lot more costly than office visits which means even more cost shifted to taxpayers.

Wisconsin did increase Medicaid coverage for those below the poverty level and according to the MacIver Institute, emergency room visits have increased by about 4,000 at Milwaukee hospitals.

Because Wisconsin refused to expand medicaid to childless adults over the poverty level, that group has the option to go on obamacare. 36,000 of the 63,000 have elected to do so at a cost of a little more than $20 a month. There is no evidence that the obamacare group is more likely to end up in the emergency rooms because they were refused office visits.

Fflambeau
Fflambeau

With this loss of almost 1/4 of a billion dollars, and the 3/4 of a billion the state lost on the high speed railroad, Scotty has now cost the taxpayers over $1 billion dollars. That's not counting the millions taxpayers have had to spend defending his criminal actions. It's time for a change!

Vitriol
Vitriol

Yes we are under the same "household" I want to see my dollars that I pay at the federal level returned to the state I reside in. Idiots like Walker refuse it based on politics. Yet he has the audacity to call us "hardworking taxpayers" and be irresponsible with decisions that benefit our state as a whole. He needs to go. I cant even fathom the damage this fool would do at the federal level "if" people were dumb enough to put him in the White House.

196ski
196ski

Wisconsin already gets more back from the Feds than it pays in.

w8rh3wk5
w8rh3wk5

We are all under the same "household" America. Its an expenditure whether its on the state of federal level. Look at the big picture

notakers
notakers

How did the taxpayers lose 206 million? The money would have gone to the medical services providers. Those denied could have gone on obamacare which is heavily subsidized by the taxpayers. The headline is a lie.

buckthorn
buckthorn

Try reading more carefully. If that was the case, then why did Walker's spokesperson respond by asserting once again that the promised federal funding is too "uncertain"? I don't suppose Walker has trouble accepting other federal funding, does he?

notakers
notakers

Walker's spokesperson took the" uncertain" route because to use the explanation I gave might confuse the low information voter. This is no excuse for the papers confusing the reader.

Cynical
Cynical

So are you saying that you know that Walker lied as to his real reasons for denying these benefits to the Wisconsin poor?

The fact remains that Wisconsin lost valuable financial help because of Walker's partisanship and he has to live with it. I expect that Burke will explain it clearly for all to understand.

53703
53703

You do realize that medical service providers are part of our state economy, right? Money comes back to the taxpayers, it is used to provide needed medical services to residents, people like nurses are paid, and they spend money on groceries.

w8rh3wk5
w8rh3wk5

Gotta love thr political spin.... again not a republican or democrat but thus headline is misleading.

Here is an example, if a high school aged child living at home and working part time wants to buy something, and he asks his parents to buy it for him and they do..... In the childs mioptic mind, they saved money and can use their money elsewhere. However the true sense is that an expense was still incurred by the household so there was no SAVINGS.

Democrats needs to think big picture. If state pases cost on to federal govt, it is still an expense. Limit expenses helps balance budget, not accounting tricks

dakref
dakref

Guess you missed the whole point of state money Vs federal money.

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