U.S.: Medicaid expansion is bipartisan

By Bill Kaplan

Gov. Scott Walker's campaign released a new attack ad against Mary Burke. There is ominous music and the requisite grainy photo of Burke. More disturbingly, the cookie-cutter ad is misleading and scaremongering. A Darth Vader-like narrator says Burke "supports Obamacare....and wants to expand it." What are the facts? 

Burke supports Medicaid expansion, a primary component of the Affordable Care Act, derisively called Obamacare by its hardline opponents (in contrast, the Social Security Act is not known as Rooseveltcare). Moreover, Medicaid expansion is increasingly a fiscal and moral bipartisan policy around the nation: 

* Nine GOP-led states, including Arizona, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio and Pennsylvania, have embraced Medicaid expansion with 100 percent federal funding for three years and 90 percent thereafter; 

* GOP-led Indiana and Utah appear to be successfully negotiating Medicaid expansion with the Obama administration; 

* GOP-led Tennessee and Wyoming signaled strongly that they too want to negotiate Medicaid expansion; 

* The nonpartisan Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau said Medicaid expansion in Wisconsin would save up to $521 million from 2013 - 2017 and cover another 120,000 people by 2016 with fewer out-of-pocket costs, critical as our state faces growing costs and a Medicaid budget deficit, with Walker continuing to turn down additional Medicaid federal funding; 

* Medicaid, up until Walker, was bipartisan in Wisconsin, established by GOP Gov. Warren Knowles in 1966, and greatly expanded by GOP Gov. Tommy Thompson in the 1990s. 

There's more. 

Last week Michigan GOP Gov. Rick Snyder spoke about his Medicaid expansion (385,000 enrolled) saying: "We have lower-income, but hard-working people getting health care that didn't before....What a difference in people's lives that's making." And, Ohio GOP Gov. John Kasich voiced similar sentiments when he expanded Medicaid. But Walker said no to Medicaid expansion and instead, threw thousands off Medicaid while letting others enroll, for a net gain of about 40,000. Many others ended up with no insurance and Wisconsin taxpayers - unlike Michigan and Ohio - got stuck with the tab. There's a lesson here for Walker. 

Elizabeth Drew, award-winning national political journalist, wrote: Gov. Kasich "wised up" and moved away from an "unpopular agenda, and so he is in a strong reelection position. Scott Walker, of Wisconsin, who has demonstrated presidential ambitions, hasn't been quite as agile and is in a tight race." 

Hence the Walker attack ads against Burke. 

-- Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C. for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 - 2009.

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