Wisconsin’s Partial Medicaid Expansion: Costs More and Achieves Less

For the past four years Wisconsin has been experimenting with a different approach to implementing Medicaid. It received a federal waiver to try out a partial expansion of BadgerCare coverage, which expanded eligibility for childless adults, financed in part by reducing eligibility for parents.

There is renewed attention to the question of whether the partial expansion was the right choice because the Department of Health Services (DHS) recently announced that they want to extend that waiver for five more years, rather than taking advantage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to get federal funding for a broader expansion.

Kids Forward has analyzed the effects of the Wisconsin experiment in a new report. We concluded that Wisconsin’s partial Medicaid expansion has been a partial success, but at far greater cost to state taxpayers.

According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, if Wisconsin were to fully expand Medicaid (by covering adults to 138% of the federal poverty level, rather than just to 100%), more than 80,000 adults would be covered in BadgerCare, and state taxpayers would save about $190 million per year.

Our report examines the data indicating that many of the 62,000 parents that were cut from BadgerCare in 2014 (in order to help pay for coverage of childless adults), appeared to be uninsured. We also found that Wisconsin’s national ranking for coverage of kids has dropped sharply because expansions of coverage for parents help get more kids enrolled. Reductions of parent coverage suppress enrollment for kids.

You can read the full report here.

People who would like to see Wisconsin cover more adults in BadgerCare, while freeing up state money in the process, should attend one of the two public hearings next week or email DHS with your comments. Public hearings are December 5 in Janesville and December 7 in Green Bay. Click here to learn more about the public hearings. Or click here to email your comments to DHS. All comments must be received by December 24.

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