Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and other agency heads are launching a new effort to expand health care access and affordability throughout the state, including a push to enroll more qualifying individuals in Medicaid and private plans.
And Evers also used the opportunity to tout the importance of accepting federal Medicaid expansion dollars — a move he proposed in his budget but Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee stripped out last month.
Under the new effort, called the Health Care Coverage Partnership, the Department of Health Services and the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance would work together to educate Wisconsinites and help families reduce their health-related costs.
Evers said many low-income individuals with fluctuating incomes "bounce between" the health care marketplace and Medicaid, making the coordination between DHS and OCI crucial for consumers.
"Getting our two agencies to work together to help ensure a smooth transition into private insurance and keeping a robust insurance marketplace vibrant will benefit all of Wisconsin," he said at a news conference Monday outside the Capitol.
Rep. John Nygren, the co-chair of the Legislature's budget committee, said in a statement he backs efforts to expand health care access but remains opposed to the Medicaid expansion.
"Instead of forcing individuals into government run healthcare, we should prioritize connecting those who qualify for this highly-subsidized healthcare that they already are eligible for," the Marinette Republican said.
The announcement came a day before the budget committee plans to vote on the DHS budget, as well as provisions from the Department of Children and Families.
Evers' proposed acceptance of the Medicaid expansion was eliminated by the Legislature's budget committee on a party-line vote last month. Taking the expansion would mean an estimated 82,000 more Wisconsinites would receive coverage and the state would’ve gotten an extra $1 billion in federal dollars over the next two years.
The partnership and its work, DHS Secretary Andrea Palm said Monday, isn't contingent on the state taking the Medicaid expansion. But she said the two also "are not mutually exclusive."
"They're both necessary to improve the marketplace and the coverage for Wisconsinites across the state, so we will push them both together forward, but can operate them independently if need be," she said.
Palm said there's about 290,000 people in the state that lack insurance coverage.
The partnership would also work in tandem with federal officials and lawmakers to implement the Medicaid expansion plan "in a fiscally responsible way," according to a release from the governor's office.
CJ Szafir, of the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, knocked Evers and his administration for "obsessively pursuing Medicaid expansion" and pledged to ensure any actions Evers takes complies with the law.
The state wouldn't be able to accept federal Medicaid expansion dollars without legislative approval.
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