The Wisconsin Legislature’s budget committee voted to raise health spending by $588 million in state dollars over the next two years, including increased funding for nursing homes and personal care workers.
The investments, the Joint Finance Committee co-chairs stressed on Tuesday, were possible without accepting the Medicaid expansion as Gov. Tony Evers had proposed.
“Today, we’re going to take the balances, the success that’s been built over the last eight years, and re-invest them,” Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, told reporters ahead of the evening vote.
But Democrats lamented the exclusion, saying Republicans could have expanded services to Wisconsinites if they would take the federal dollars, which would have amounted to more than $1 billion over the next two years and $324 million is state general purpose revenue savings.
“We have a crisis of mental health, we obviously have a crisis of addiction that the governor makes a centerpiece of his proposal, and he does it because he has the money, we have the money to do it with the Medicaid expansion,” said Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison. “And you don’t do it.”
The vote on the Department of Health Services budget items came as Evers and Democrats continued to push the state to accept federal Medicaid expansion dollars, as the governor had proposed in his spending plan though Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee stripped it out last month.
The motion the committee approved 11-4 along party lines would increase payments to hospitals that serve Medicaid patients by $60 million in general purpose revenue over the biennium; up the nursing home reimbursement rate by $30 million in GPR; provide $37 million extra in GPR for personal care workers, which would cover a $1.51 hourly raise for those individuals starting July 1; and raise funding for direct caregivers by $27 million in GPR.
But the plan didn’t include a key tenant of Evers’ budget to expand women’s health care coverage under his $28 million “Healthy Women, Healthy Babies” initiative to extend post-partum coverage for certain women under the Medicaid program from two months after childbirth to one year.
In all, Evers wanted $22.9 million in new state and federal funding for the post-partum coverage increase — a sum that was cut from the budget under the GOP plan.
Additionally, Evers sought to increase reimbursement rates under the MA program for dental providers if a certain percentage of their clients were enrolled in Medicaid. In all, the governor would have allocated $38.8 million in federal and state dollars toward the effort over the biennium — money that wasn’t included in the GOP plan.
The language was part of his broader $43 million dental funding plan, which also included expanding the “Seal-a-Smile” program, an initiative that provides preventative services to school-aged children. The Republican motion adopted extra funding for the program, in addition to other parts of the dental plan.
On lead-related initiatives, Evers sought $32.3 million for children’s health insurance program funding for lead abatement efforts and staffing for an expanded lead exposure and poisoning prevention program. Republicans approved $14.2 million in state and federal dollars for those efforts.
In all, the Republican plan for DHS funding represents a $588 million increase in GPR over the next two years, plus a $858 million raise in federal funds.