Democratic Gov. Tony Evers launched a campaign Monday to enroll more Wisconsinites in affordable health insurance plans either through Medicaid or private insurers.
The state’s Department of Health Services and the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance will work together to educate consumers about health-care plans and promote healthcare.gov, a website with information about the Affordable Care Act.
The plan will also support working with lawmakers, federal officials and others to implement Evers’ Medicaid expansion proposal, according to an announcement from Evers’ office.
“Our goal is to make sure that health coverage is more affordable and more accessible for all Wisconsinites,” Evers told reporters outside the Capitol.
The governor’s announcement comes a month after Republican legislative leaders vowed to scrap Medicaid expansion from the 2019-21 budget, a provision Evers included in his proposal that would bring $324 million in federal funds to Wisconsin.
Democratic lawmakers have said in response that Republicans’ refusal to expand Medicaid amounts to ignoring the will of the people.
The Joint Finance Committee takes up discussion on the health services department’s budget on Tuesday.
The administration’s plan to boost private marketplace and BadgerCare enrollment can move forward without Medicaid expansion, although DHS director Andrea Palm said the two initiatives complement each other.
DHS spokeswoman Elizabeth Goodsitt said the department will use existing financial resources, as well as staff time, expertise and data, to increase enrollment. She also said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services expects to award $200,000 in 2020 and 2021 to Wisconsin navigators who help individuals find coverage through the Affordable Care Act.
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Evers pauses on gas tax
Just days before the state’s budget committee is set for a vote on transportation funding, Evers wouldn’t say whether he’d sign a budget that does not include a gas tax increase to help pay for the state’s roads.
Evers told reporters Monday he’ll wait to review the GOP-authored budget in full before determining whether to support a plan that doesn’t increase the motor fuel tax. Evers previously told the Wisconsin State Journal a sustainable transportation solution is a requirement for signing a budget into law.
Evers on Monday continued to call for such a solution.
“Clearly the people of Wisconsin told us during the campaign to fix the damn roads,” Evers said. “If Republican leadership has an idea on how we can magically do that without increasing the gas tax, we will certainly be looking for that.”
The governor’s plan would raise the gas tax by 8 cents per gallon, index the tax to inflation, and raise heavy truck registration and car title fees. The annual vehicle registration fee, however, would stay at $75.
Altogether, the proposal would raise about $608 million over the next two years for roads.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, splashed cold water on a gas tax increase late last week, telling the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Senate Republicans are instead considering raising registration fees, title fees and heavy truck fees. He did not specify how much fees may increase.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said in a statement last week a gas tax increase “would be tough to get done in this budget.”