PolitiFact Ignores Hard Data, Underestimates Walker’s BadgerCare Reforms

May 22, 2014

by James Wigderson
Special Guest Perspective for the MacIver Institute

With the new numbers released on Monday, the evidence is clear that Gov. Scott Walker’s health care plan has increased health care coverage in Wisconsin. Given the chance, will the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel revisit its PolitiFact rating of “half true” of Walker’s claim that more Wisconsinites have health care coverage?

Outside of Act 10 and the tax cuts, Walker’s most sweeping reform has been of Wisconsin’s health care system. Under his predecessor, Jim Doyle, Wisconsin’s Medicaid program BadgerCare overpromised coverage that led to waiting lists for people wanting to enroll. Walker’s reforms eliminated the waiting lists and covered 100% of those under the federal poverty line.

The most controversial aspect of the plan has been the decision to not accept expanded Medicaid funding from the federal government if the state upped the limit for coverage to 138% of the federal poverty line. Walker’s decision stopped the state from spending $3.39 billion while expecting $3.25 billion in federal tax dollars as reimbursement.

But more important, Walker’s decision allowed the state to concentrate its resources on covering those below the federal poverty line while allowing those above the federal poverty line to take advantage of federal subsidies in the new federal healthcare exchange.

According to numbers released by the Walker Administration on Monday, the result has been an increase in health care coverage. The state’s BadgerCare program enrolled 81,731 childless adults since the change in eligibility. Meanwhile, the lower-than-expected 62,776 people no longer eligible for BadgerCare will be able to participate in the federal healthcare exchange, which means no coverage gap according to the Kaiser Foundation.

Walker’s plan is unique in that it is the only plan that rejected federal Medicaid expansion without causing a coverage gap. It’s working as the Walker Administration said it would.

Despite the success of Walker’s health plan and the hard data showing that more people do have health coverage, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s PolitiFact only gave Walker a “half-true” rating to the claim that more people have health coverage. The reason they gave? Walker fought Obamacare, and the exchanges are going to offer more health care coverage than the expansion of Medicaid. The sub-heading, “He takes too much credit.”

To pass his health plan, Walker not only had to overcome resistance from the Democrats and the leftwing special interests, it had to overcome resistance within his own party. The plan was also criticized by many of the state’s editorial boards, including the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s editorial put the entire focus for the decision on whether to accept federal Medicaid expansion on Walker. The editorial did not even reference the state legislature. The concluding paragraph began, “This can’t be an easy call for a governor so opposed to Obamacare, but we think it’s the right one and hope he sees it that way, too.”

So, despite the editorial placing the responsibility for the state’s health care plan on Walker, despite that it was the Walker Administration that came up with the health care plan, despite that it was the Walker Administration that had to get its plan through a skeptical legislature, despite the hard numbers showing that more people have health care coverage thanks to Walker’s policies, PolitiFact is going to accuse Walker of taking too much credit for a policy that’s working.

At this point, if Walker were to announce the state was going to give free land to dairy farmers and then took credit for increased milk production, the writers at PolitiFact would give Walker a “half true” rating claiming the cows should be given the credit.

Because Walker did follow the Obamacare playbook, the writers at PolitiFact just could not bring themselves to give him credit for the success of his health care plan. But the hard numbers are in. The waiting lists for BadgerCare are gone and more people in Wisconsin have health care coverage. Given their clearly biased rating, PolitiFact’s ideological pants are on fire.