Gov. Walker's 'Third Way' Medicaid Plan Criticized as 2016 Maneuver

Image: Gov. Walker's 'Third Way' Medicaid Plan Criticized as 2016 Maneuver

Thursday, 19 Dec 2013 12:40 PM

By Melissa Clyne

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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's proposed "third way" Medicaid option to make sure his state’s residents have insurance coverage is a maneuver some political pundits claim is designed to lay the groundwork for a 2016 presidential bid by the Republican.

Walker’s plan to turn down federal dollars offered to expand Medicaid coverage in the Badger State would actually increase its rolls by more than 80,000 adults, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Currently, Wisconsin offers one of the most sweeping Medicaid programs in the country, covering adults making up to twice the federal poverty level. The proposed Walker plan would cover only those earning at or below the poverty level — $11,490 annually for a single person — freeing up money to open enrollments, which have been frozen since 2009, when spending caps forced the suspension of new enrollees.

The move, which could help raise his profile during a presidential run, allows Walker to tout the conservative position of opposing Obamacare while appealing to a broader base of voters concerned with getting healthcare coverage.

Walker’s political capital increased after surviving a 2012 recall election brought on by Democrats angry over Walker’s decision to limit the collective bargaining rights of state employees.

Medicaid expansion became optional under a 2012 Supreme Court ruling. The federal government has guaranteed financing states’ expansion costs through 2016 and at least 90 percent afterward.

But some GOP governors, including Rick Perry of Texas, don’t trust the promise. Perry rejected the expansion, arguing that states would ultimately get stuck footing the bill. Ohio’s John Kasich is taking the federal money while governors in Pennsylvania and Tennessee have tried to get the federal Medicaid money but use it to expand private coverage, the Journal reported Wednesday.

Though Walker’s plan reduces the number of Wisconsin residents who would qualify for Medicaid, the 77,000 people losing coverage would qualify for subsidies with monthly premiums less than $20, Kaiser Health News reports.

"You’re going to hear some detractors claim that moving people to the private market or to the exchanges isn’t affordable," Walker says. "I think most people would find it hard to imagine that with the tax subsidies, that $19 a month is somehow not affordable. I think it is."

Walker’s "third way" option "allows him to combat criticism either for accepting the federal money or blocking a Medicaid expansion," according to the Journal.

"In our state, we didn't take that false choice," Walker said. "We picked a third option. For the first time in our state's history, everyone in poverty will be covered."

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