MERRILL, Wis. (WXPR) -- Lincoln has become the fifth county board in Wisconsin to ask voters about accepting federal funds for BadgerCare. The advisory referendum will be on the November ballot.
The Walker administration and the legislature declined the money to help pay for Medicaid, known in Wisconsin as BadgerCare. The money was available through the Affordable Care Act.
Kevin Kane from the pro Democratic group Citizen Action of Wisconsin says 20 counties last year asked the state to take the money, fearing the costs would be pushed down to the county level. He says the overwhelming margin the board approved the referendum vote shows it is bipartisan. "The board voted 201 that the citizens of Lincoln county should have the right to decide for themselves if Wisconsin accepts these federal funds. So we hope this is a big message to all the counties that they should be letting their citizens vote on this important issue."
When Governor Walker last year rejected the money, he said he didn't want to base Wisconsin's payments on federal money that might not be there, given the large federal budget deficit. Kane says many counties have an existing social services infrastructure that will feel the crunch. "The whole idea on the health care law was that many of the citizens that they currently cover would be covered by BadgerCare and the Affordable Healthcare Act. And by the state rejecting these federal funds, amounting to about a million dollars a day, it's going to push these costs back on the counties."
Kane says as people are forced off BadgerCare, uncompensated care costs will remain high in local hospitals and county-supported clinics, forcing cost shifting to county budgets, consumers and local businesses.
Governor Walker maintains the federal government has broken its promise to fund Medicaid before and will do again. Republican John Kasich of Ohio accepted the money, telling fellow conservatives it was Ohio money returning to Ohio.