December 16, 2013
by James Wigderson
Special Guest Perspective for the MacIver Institute
Citizen Action and State Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) decided Tuesday it was time to employ the “widows and orphans” strategy to support an expansion of Medicaid in Wisconsin. They held a press conference to promote proposed legislation that would allow individual counties to seek federal money under the Obamacare plan to expand Medicaid eligibility for the state Badger Care program.
During the “widows and orphans” part of Tuesday’s press conference, one woman spoke about how she and her son would be kicked off of BadgerCare if Governor Scott Walker and the legislature did not expand Medicaid spending in Wisconsin to Obamacare levels. However, the changes in BadgerCare will not affect children, something Citizen Action’s Robert Kraig was forced to admit at the press conference when he was questioned on it by Bill Osmulski of the MacIver Institute.
This is not the first time Citizen Action has misstated the facts in order to try to get Wisconsin to take Obamacare federal funding for Medicaid expansion. During the debate on the state budget on whether to take federal funds to cover most of the costs of the expansion of the entitlement program, Citizen Action claimed twenty counties had endorsed the idea. But only thirteen counties did, with seven county representatives only speaking for themselves.
In September, Citizen Action claimed the Wisconsin Counties Association passed a resolution endorsing the state taking federal funds to cover most but not all of the costs associated with an expansion of Medicaid eligibility. As reported by the MacIver Institute, the WCA quickly put out a statement contradicting Citizen Action, saying, “We do not rely on other organizations to characterize our positions for us.”
Citizen Action recently came out with a study claiming that Minnesota has lower health care costs because they accepted the federal funds for an expansion of Medicaid eligibility. The MacIver Institute reported that the study had, “many instances of inaccurate and incomplete data.”
The MacIver Institute also corrected Citizen Action’s claim that those states accepting the federal money to expand Medicaid eligibility had lower insurance premiums. “According to HHS’s chart (which includes 47 states plus DC), Tennessee, which neither expanded Medicaid nor created its own exchange, has the 2nd lowest premiums in the nation for the lowest cost silver plan.
“There are also states that both expanded Medicaid and set up a state-run exchange that have higher premiums than Wisconsin.
“Connecticut is one of those states. Its premiums are 15 percent higher than Wisconsin’s according to the HHS data that Citizen Action used. Vermont and Washington are also higher.”
Despite their inaccurate statements being exposed, Citizen Action continues to be quoted as credible by the media. This time they were willing to let a person misrepresent the situation for her and her child just to score rhetorical points until questioned by the MacIver Institute. Shame, shame, shame.
Tuesday’s press conference is another reminder that groups calling for the acceptance of federal funds to temporarily expand Medicaid eligibility during a proposed three-month transition period in the state’s BadgerCare program really have no intention of the expansion being temporary, even if the federal funds are. Even if such a patchwork quilt of Medicaid eligibility would be desirable (it isn’t), when the federal reimbursement levels for Medicaid drop as expected, it will be Wisconsin taxpayers picking up the tab for the expanded entitlement.
The attempt to get separate federal funds for a Medicaid expansion is an attempt to get around Walker’s refusal to accept Obamacare funding that would cover most, but not all, of an expansion of Medicaid eligibility in Wisconsin.
Walker’s plan would instead eliminate the Doyle-era waiting lists for Badger Care by covering all adults under the federal poverty line. Above the poverty line, adults could get coverage through the Obamacare healthcare exchange with the federal subsidies.
With the failure of the Obamacare health care exchange website, Walker has requested from the legislature a three-month delay in making the changes to BadgerCare. That has prompted some special interest groups, including Citizen Action, to press for a “temporary” increase in Medicaid spending under Obamacare to be mostly funded by the federal government. As Tuesday’s press conference demonstrates, if such a “temporary” expansion of Medicaid spending on BadgerCare were to take place, the same groups would not be happy until the expansion is made permanent.
And they will say anything to get their way.