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Baldwin pushes for Medicaid expansions with new bill

New reform introduced by U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin would ensure that states that opt to expand eligibility for Medicaid can access the same federal funds as states that expanded the health care program before 2014, under the Affordable Care Act.

“I support this legislation because it is my hope it will point our state in the right direction,” Baldwin, a Democrat from Wisconsin, said in a news release.

The Affordable Care Act has provided federal financial support for states to expand Medicaid programs to provide health care coverage to individuals up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

The federal government, under the ACA, pays the cost of expansion for the first three years for the states that enrolled in 2014 and phases down to a 90 percent match rate for the sixth and subsequent years.

In a lawsuit over the expansion program, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could opt-in or opt-in and 19 states — mostly those with Republican governors — opted out.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker has refused to expand Medicaid eligibility in Wisconsin and instead he shrunk the BadgerCare program.

Baldwin said the governor has put “politics ahead of progress and taken our state in the wrong direction,” kicked Wisconsinites off their coverage and created a coverage gap.

She said she hoped the States Achieve Medicaid Expansion Act of 2016 would provide the incentive for states to opt-in and expand Medicaid programs, as well as assist the seven states that expanded after 2014.

“In the states that haven’t expanded Medicaid, many adults living near the poverty level are now unable to afford health care,” said Jon Peacock, research director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families.

He said existing law makes expanding Medicaid a good deal but the SAME Act would create an even better deal. “It would be fairer to give all the states the same incentive to close a gap in affordable coverage for adults near the poverty level,” Peacock said.

Studies show states that expanded Medicaid eligibility saw direct and indirect benefits in job growth, earnings growth, increased gross state product, increased state and local revenues and reduced uncompensated care and hospital costs.

In an analysis released last year, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated the economic impact of expanding eligibility in Wisconsin would be $1.3 billion and the creation of 10,500 jobs.

“Congress should pass this bill. The president should sign. And Gov. Walker and the Legislature should … expand BadgerCare to cover 83,000 more people and save state taxpayers more than a billion dollars over the next 10 years,” said Mike Bare of Community Advocates Public Policy Institute.

Baldwin introduced the bill along with Democrats Mark Warner of Virginia, Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters of Michigan, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jon Tester of Montana, Tim Kaine of Virginia and independent Angus King of Maine.

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