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Wisconsin Advocates Vow to Fight for Medicaid Expansion

More than 80,000 Wisconsinites would gain access to health care coverage if the state would accept federal Medicaid expansion dollars. (designer491/Adobe Stock)
More than 80,000 Wisconsinites would gain access to health care coverage if the state would accept federal Medicaid expansion dollars. (designer491/Adobe Stock)
May 13, 2019

MADISON, Wis. – For some Wisconsin policy advocates, a vote to remove Medicaid expansion from the proposed two-year state budget is simply the first mile of a marathon.

Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee blocked Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' plan to accept $1.6 billion in federal funding for the expansion of Medicaid.

Helen Marks Dicks, state issues advocacy director for AARP Wisconsin, contends the committee took an extreme position.

"I look at what happened last Thursday really as partisan political theater,” she states. “70% of people in Wisconsin want the Medicaid expansion and I think for the most part, politicians really are responsive to their constituents. "

And so, she explains, over the next several weeks, AARP will engage with its members, state lawmakers, organizations and others to drive home the point that accepting Medicaid expansion funds would improve a variety of health and economic outcomes for the state and its people.

Expansion would provide health care coverage to more than 80,000 additional Wisconsinites.

Opponents contend it's a massive expansion of welfare that is unsustainable. Dicks disagrees, and says the state would be missing out on money that can help people live, work, raise families and age with dignity.

"There is some talk that it's welfare but it's not welfare, it is well-being,” she stresses. “The question of sustainability is an interesting one because really, if something happened to the federal money, there are ways to adjust to that. That is a not a good reason not to take the money."

State budget deliberations run until the end of June, which Dicks says provides ample time to work with the governor and legislature to make expansion reality.

"It's not dead in the waters,” she states. “By the time they send it up to the governor, the governor has a very powerful veto pen. And, you know, we might have to do budget round one and budget round two this year. But Medicaid expansion is a fight worth having, and a fight worth winning."

Wisconsin is one of 13 states that has not expanded the program.

Disclosure: AARP Wisconsin contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Consumer Issues, Health Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - WI