Governor Tony Evers revived his push to expand Medicaid on Wednesday, this time tying it to a plan that would spend $1 billion in federal incentives on projects throughout Wisconsin.
The proposal represented an attempt by the Democratic governor to recast the well-worn debate as about more than just expanding health coverage, framing it instead as a chance to capture a rare federal incentive payment to spend on dozens of projects, some of them in lawmakers’ backyards.
“We’re going to be utilizing it for projects all across the state,” Evers said at a Wednesday press conference in Middleton. “If the Republicans decide not to do this, they’ll be turning away projects in their own districts.”
But just hours after Evers introduced his plan, several of the Legislature’s top Republicans issued a written statement saying they opposed it.
“Our unique-to-Wisconsin solution is working, and we will not shift tens of thousands of people off their private insurance to a government-run system,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg.
Wisconsin is one of a dozen states that have decided not to expand Medicaid since the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
Wisconsin offers Medicaid, or BadgerCare, to people who earn up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level. Evers’ proposed budget would have expanded that to 138 percent, which would have covered an estimated 91,000 additional residents. BadgerCare currently covers about 1 million people in Wisconsin.
Republicans on the Legislature’s budget committee rejected the governor’s plan, just as they did two years ago after Evers proposed expanding Medicaid in his 2019 budget.