Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Why Walker Opposes Obamacare

His opposition to more federal dollars for Medicaid will hurt Wisconsin, but help his campaign for president.

By - Jun 13th, 2013 11:52 am
Gov. Scott Walker

Gov. Scott Walker

Across the nation, governors have to decide whether to accept additional federal dollars to expand Medicaid in their state, which is one of the ways Obamacare increases the number of people with health care coverage. For Chris Christie, Republican governor of New Jersey, the issue was a no-brainer.

“It’s simple. We are putting people first,” Christie explained. “We have an opportunity to ensure that an even greater number of New Jerseyans who are at or near the poverty line will have access to critical health services beginning in January 2014.” Christie added that “expanding Medicaid will ensure New Jersey taxpayers will see their dollars maximized.”

Eight other GOP governors made the same decision as Christie: Jan Brewer in Arizona, Rick Scott in Florida, Terry Branstad in Iowa, Rick Snyder in Michigan, Brian Sandoval in Nevada, Susana Martinez in New Mexico, Jack Dalrymple in North Dakota and John Kasich in Ohio.

Not Gov. Scott Walker. His budget (which appears quite likely to be passed by the state legislature) turns down the federal dollars that would allow the state to cover 84,700 more people under Medicaid than his plan while saving money for Wisconsin taxpayers, as the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau concluded: it estimated the federal plan could save $119 million over the next two years and additional $340 million through 2021.

Walker and his legislative acolytes, like state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) have insisted they must turn down these federal dollars because the federal government might decide later to end this program because it is too expensive.

It’s true that Walker previously turned down federal money for high speed rail, but in that case he argued — accurately — there would be some additional costs for the state in creating and maintaining the program. That’s not the case here. The reality is that an estimated 28 percent of the state budget comes from federal dollars, all of which could some day be cut. Why pick out this particular program to resist?

The answer was provided by Dan Holler, a spokesperson for Heritage Action, the grass-roots activism arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, which is helping lead the opposition to Obamacare. “If you’re committed to making sure Obamacare doesn’t go into effect, you have to focus on the expansion and on the exchanges,” Holler told the business publication, “Once you have people under a program, it’s really hard to change that system.”

Republican attempts to repeal the law in Congress or overturn it in the courts have failed. So the only avenue left is to fight the expansion of Obamacare, because once people have coverage, they will want it to continue. The Republicans goal, reported, “is to limit enrollments, drive up costs, and make it easier to roll back all or part of the law later.”

Obamacare achieves its impact — and lowers the cost of health care — by creating the largest pool of insured Americans it can. This helps spread the costs more evenly and can mean fewer visits to emergency care (the most expensive medical care) by those lacking insurance.

In California, which has embraced Obamacare, nearly three dozen private health plans have submitted competitive bids to provide coverage under the Obamacare model. The companies approved to sell individual insurance in that state’s health insurance exchange include leading insurers such as Anthem Blue Cross, Kaiser Permanente, HealthNet and Blue Shield of California.

The results were heralded by Betsy Imholz, director of special projects for Consumers Union, a division of Consumer Reports, the long-trusted magazine. “I’m impressed,” Imholz told Kaiser Health News. “I actually think they are good prices,” she said, especially for those who will receive federal insurance subsidies. Caroline Pearson, a vice president of Avalere Health, a consulting company in Washington, offered a similar take: The offerings “strike me as very competitive,” she told the publication. “It speaks to the number of carriers that were attracted to the market, and that the exchange created competition to drive down prices.”

The rates, in fact, were much lower than even the Congressional Budget Office had predicted.

If Obamacare succeeds, it will will really make Republicans look bad, as they did everything possible to stop it, voting 33 times in Congress to repeal the law. Hence the pressure on Republican governors to prevent Obamacare from ever being tested. As Brian Sikma of explained, “It is quite likely that conservatives reviewing a field of Republican governors in the 2016 campaign will measure each governor’s commitment to repealing ObamaCare against how they acted on the voluntary expansion of Medicaid. In that case, (Scott) Walker’s handling of Medicaid puts him squarely in the lead among his peer governors” like Christie, Snyder, Kasich and Scott, who “opted to call for an expansion of Medicaid. “Walker, Sikma concluded, “has possibly secured for himself a unique front-runner spot among his fellow Republican governors and rumored 2016 presidential contenders on the issue of healthcare.”

Walker’s stance was overwhelmingly opposed by medical care professionals in Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Hospital Association, Wisconsin Medical Society, Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians and Wisconsin Chapter of the American College of Physicians all supported the federal plan to expand Medicaid in Wisconsin.

Nine Wisconsin counties passed resolutions urging Walker to accept the federal dollars, including Milwaukee, Dane, Dunn, La Crosse, Jefferson, Winnebago, Oneida, Lincoln, and Marathon Counties, which together represent more than one-third of the population of Wisconsin.Three more counties will be voting on such resolutions on June 18.

But Walker has cooly stood his ground, turning down a chance to save Wisconsin $459 million and provide health insurance coverage for an additional 85,000 people. The results will be bad for Wisconsin, but will help him greatly in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries.

Correction: An early version of this story listed just seven rather than nine counties that had passed resolutions urging Walker to accept the federal dollars to expand Medicaid.



Categories: Murphy's Law

30 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Why Walker Opposes Obamacare”

  1. Stacy Moss says:

    What a train wreck.

  2. Ken Wood says:

    I’d like to know why the circumstances of his departure from Marquette get to stay cloaked in secrecy.

  3. Ben Smith says:

    Anyone else notice how every article here is anti-republican? What happened to unbiased news?

  4. Kyle says:

    I believe that cloak of secrecy is called FERPA, and applies to any student, not just the ones with political influence.

  5. Cream says:

    The circumstance at MU are not cloaked in secrecy, since the Marquette Tribune’s coverage during the gubernatorial campaign (search online for several stories), when it went to its archives for coverage at the time. FERPA protects the transcript, but that is not needed to put together the story of the very public events at the time.

    Journalism students could report the story, and did so. Only the editors of the Journal Sentinel refuse to commit an act of journalism by reporting the so-called “secret.”

  6. Bruce Murphy says:

    Urban Milwaukee did run a story on Walker’s college days:

    I don’t really think there’s a smoking gun there.

  7. Tom Bosworth says:

    Good for Walker.

    With 28% of the state budget already payed for by the federal government, we are already in the same position as crack whores. Why make the state even more subservient to those who demand we do as they say, or else?

    Of course, if you want the state governments turned into subdivisions of the federal government, that would be just fine.

  8. Jesse H. says:

    So Tom, when will the federal highway money be turned back?

  9. Dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    walker is not running for president, just some talk. He does not have that kind of money available. His stand on Medicaid just like other governors is based on the fact that Medicaid is broke and they cannot possibly, after three years, continue to pay that level. The states are wide open to getting screwed by the feds. His plan to put them on Obamacare as the Left wanted to do, with everyone, is fiscally sound, in direct comparison to the Left that ran things into the ground under Doyle. There are some governors that could find themselves in really deep doo doo like Ill. and Ca., if the Feds default.

  10. b says:

    I’m wrong too often, but I can’t see Walker as the next Republican nominee for President. We saw how well Tommy did (twice) and he had real political chops and not just ideological talking points. If the real red meat R.’s want a true conservative they had better hope for a massive recession before the next election in 2016 or this will be like Goldwater or McGovern. Maybe Walker should just set his sights on a cushy gig at Heritage where he could join his intellectual equal Jim DeMint.

  11. Chris Jacobs says:

    Accepting fed money to expand Medicaid would be a disaster. 1 in 3 doctors refuses new Medicaid patients altogether. Its an unsustainable program that needs reform, not expansion. This was created as a limited safety net welfare program, not provide for every low/middle income person. Today Medicaid consumes 23% of many state budgets. To control Medicaid spending, states typically fall back on predictable techniques to manage costs, such as limiting reimbursements to health care providers and limiting services, and ultimately limits access to care. Half of states have refused Medicaid expansion, and with good reason.

  12. Omri says:

    It’s not like Walker has a plan for reforming Medicaid. His only plan is to let the poor crowd the emergency rooms, which leaves the state even worse off financially.

  13. dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    Baloney, they are supposed to go onto that neat new plan that the Left foisted on us: Obamacare.

    By the way, when does that Global Warming start, it has been cold for the last 16 years and going down. New Ice age they said in 1975.

  14. Peggy nelson says: you cite California as an example of the greatness of this program.
    this from CNN
    “On the flip side, a young man who never visits the doctor and wants to minimize his monthly charge could opt for a bronze plan. A 40-year-old enrolling in this plan could pay as little as $219 a month. But, if he did get sick, he’d get socked with a $5,000 deductible, $60 co-pays for primary care visits and a $300 emergency room charge.”
    and why does this Dem Congressmen say it is unfair that he and his staff have to take Obamacare

  15. Tom D says:

    Dohnal (post 13), how can poor people go onto Obamacare when Scott Walker prevents them from doing so?

    Part of Obamacare is subsidized coverage via Medicaid for poor people. Unlike other Medicaid whose cost is split roughly 50-50 between the states and the Feds, the Feds have agreed to pay 100% of these costs through the end of 2016 (followed by a gradual ramp-down to a permanent 90% federal subsidy starting in 2020).

    The feds are willing to pick up 100% of this cost for the next three years (and then at least 90% of the cost forever), but Scott is refusing to accept the check.

    George Wallace is best known for making a fool of himself by standing in the schoolhouse door to prevent black students from attending. Scott Walker is today standing at the mailbox refusing to accept a 100% federal subsidy.

  16. Dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    Son, ask Obama, he is the expert. Or buy the book understanding Obamacare so you won’t be so dumb.

  17. Kyle says:

    As I understand it, the people between 100% and 133% of the federal poverty line will still be able to buy insurance through the exchanges. However, they won’t be eligible for the subsidies, since it was assumed that everyone under 133% would be on Medicaid. Thanks to SCOTUS, that isn’t the case.

    So in a way, you’re both right. They can go to the exchange and buy this insurance. But odds are that they won’t be able to afford it. Scott Walker declining this Medicaid money, which has no guarantee of being “at least 90% of the cost forever”, actually doesn’t affect Obamacare at all. Just the assumptions that were made when it was written.

  18. dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    What on earth is th matter with you Leftists? Obamacare is everyone’s dream program.

  19. tim haering says:

    Refusing the Medicaid $$$ will “hurt” Wisconsin the same way a decrease in spending growth is a spending cut.

  20. Kim says:

    Okay, Walker isn’t even in the running for becoming President with his lack of higher education and strong history in higher up positions in government. Turning down money to develop the fail public transportation system offerings could be understandable, but could you imagine how much productivity could be done on a train going to Madison that avoids traffic and will be more on time for important events, plus balancing out the overpriced Badger Bus transportation and possibly cutting down on cars on the road that cause traffic jams? It probably wouldn’t have been that fast but it would be a more friendly option for everyone involved. Turning down more federal money is like turning down an opportunity for free training provided by your company for required continuing education. Doesn’t look good to people reviewing you for possible advancement and it presents you as a know it all and gets you a 1 on your performance review.

    PS when making a correction, make sure to leave the date which you corrected it too so readers can know how quickly you responded to an error in the article. 🙂

  21. dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    That halfast train would have been a money pit with few riders. Look at the disaster they have in Ca. and china with these things. They can still run a train there over present tracks if they want. why don’t they do it?

  22. Dave Reid says:

    The HSR project was to run the train over existing tracks. In fact some freight tracks that today have a speed limit of 10 MPH because of the condition were going to be used and the project would have fixed those tracks allowing for better freight service… Instead Wisconsin is paying for some of those fixes… The “best” part? As those federal dollars were still spent, just not in Wisconsin, us Wisconsinites are actually spending more…

  23. Dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    HSR is silly, it was supposed to avg. 60 plus MPH, less than the buss and would end up 5 blocks from Capitol bldg while the bus stops at Capitol. Walker saved us from one of the biggest boondoggles in history. Same people that want this want the silly choo choo trian in Milwaukee. Grow up, we do not play with trains any more except in eastern corridor.

  24. Tom D says:

    Passenger trains cannot be run on the existing Milwaukee-Madison tracks because the tracks are inadequate and must be improved. This is where most of the $810 million was going to be spent.

    The existing track inadequacies are:

    – Between Milwaukee and Watertown (used today by Amtrak’s Empire Builder):
    In many places there is just one track (the railroad equivalent of a one-lane highway controlled by flagmen). There are already 22 daily trains (20 freight plus one Empire Builder each way) on this privately-owned track and more passenger trains (which are more schedule-sensitive than freights) would be too much for a single-track line.

    The HSR project would have widened the entire Milwaukee-Watertown stretch to 2 tracks which would also have improved freight service.

    – Between Watertown and Madison
    This track is owned by the State and is in very poor shape. There are an average of 5 daily freight trains which are limited to just 10 mph for safety reasons.

    The HSR project would have upgraded this track to 110 mph, and widened some portions to 2-track (although the bulk of the route would have remained single-track).

    The State has committed to repair this track to allow faster (perhaps 60 mph) freight trains and would have had this work covered by the passenger train extension. Now Wisconsin is on the hook for tens of millions in track repairs on this route.

    As for the train being a money pit, the subsidies would be in line with the existing Chicago-Milwaukee train subsidies. In fact, it would not even be a new subsidy, just an increase in the existing Hiawatha subsidy because of the additional train miles.

    The total operating subsidy (including the existing Hiawatha subsidy) would be less than today’s Wisconsin “ad velorem railroad tax”–a special railroad property tax (in contrast to highways which pay zero property tax) which is treated as a highway user fee (same as the state gas tax) and plopped into the State Transportation Fund.

  25. dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    Those estimates are all BS, put together by the special interests that want to build this turkey. If we needed a train to Madison, there would be one already. The RR would build it if it would make money. Since it would be disaster when people can take a high speed bus, they do not build it. All of the ones being built in this country and around the world have been money pits. You need to go no further than California, the debt ridden mess that it is, to find that out.

  26. Tom D says:

    Dohnal, the Madison train station was NOT “5 blocks from Capitol bldg”–it would have been at 101 E. Wilson, just 2 blocks away compared to one block away for Badger Bus (not “at” it as you claimed).

    Also the bus is slower than the train would have been. Travel time between downtown Milwaukee and the Capitol area is 86-103 minutes by Badger Bus and would have been 69-74 minutes by train. I find it amazing that you call a 86-minute (or slower) bus “high speed” but call a 74-minute (or faster) train “halfast” [sic].

    Finally, let me point out that the only HSR line that has been operating for more than a year in the US is far from a “money pit”. In Fiscal Year 2012, Amtrak’s 456-mile Northeast Corridor, made a $298 million profit ($1,079.2 million in revenue, $781.2 million in operating costs). California also projects an operating profit once their HSR line is fully built.

  27. Dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    Anyone that believes anything coming out of California also believes that Milwaukee is well run and the choo choo train is going to be an economic wonderland. The NE corridor is the perfect place to make money on trains, filled with liberals and lots of people. Ca. has been one long disaster as has China.
    Anyone that believes the projections on how much the Mil/Mad city train would cost, profits and time also thinks that the Wisconsin Center, Milwaukee county, Milwaukee and MMSD are well run governmental agencies.
    I have looked at many governmental projections over the years, last one being the train, but also the County grounds debacle, state fair, Wis. center, MMSD, MATC. all of them wrong. Want to talk about projections on Medicare, Medicaid, obamacare?
    This area is laughingstock of state. Show me a project around here that came in on time, on budget and the revenue projections were accurate??? List me the accomplishments of the Barrett team???

  28. Tom D says:

    Dohnal, you say “The NE corridor is the perfect place to make money on trains, filled with liberals and lots of people.” All those things hold true for California, too.

    Do you advocate discontinuing today’s Chicago-Milwaukee trains? Do you feel the Hiawatha is a “money pit”? I really don’t understand how so many conservative Milwaukeeans support the existing Chicago-Milwaukee train but oppose the Chicago-Madison train.

  29. dohnal(Wis. Conservtive Digest says:

    Stupid arguments, I ma talking about the inadequacies of Milwaukee governments, the supposed halfast train between Milwaukee madison. California is a disaster and not as high per capita asNE corridor but it is also very poorly run as Is Il.
    If Walker was running either the would ahve solved problems, not bought into new boondoggles to line the pockets of the Left’s big givers.

  30. Tom D says:

    Dohnal, you didn’t answer my question about whether you support or oppose today’s Chicago-Milwaukee train. Your silence tells me that you support it because you actually use it, and that you only oppose subsidies for “the other guy” (who, in this case, lives in Madison).

    By the way, Milwaukee’s government has NOTHING to do with the operation of the Chicago-Madison train.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us