Baldwin pushes expansion of Medicaid under new health care law

Federal Information & News Dispatch, Inc.

WASHINGTON -- In her first major speech since being sworn in as Wisconsin's newest U.S. senator, Tammy Baldwin signals she will continue her crusade for affordable health care for everyone.

Excerpts from the speech to be delivered today at a three-day Health Action 2013 conference sponsored by Families USA, a consumer health care advocacy group, reinforce Baldwin's position as a strong supporter of President Barack Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Baldwin talks about the importance of passing that law to the millions of Americans whose lives have been altered because they didn't have health insurance. But the success of the law, she says, will depend largely on how it is implemented over the next several years.

"The Affordable Care Act will be on the books a decade from now. But the good it does will depend on what we do in these critical next few months and years," Baldwin said in her excerpts.

The Madison Democrat said in addition to reducing costs and increasing the quality of care, health care reform should also be about protecting Americans in times of need. She said Medicaid expansion under the ACA seeks to achieve that goal.

The health care law extends Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program for the poor and disabled, to cover people making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which was $15,415 for an individual and $26,344 for a family of three in 2012.

The federal government would pick up the full cost of expanding the program from 2014, when the law takes affect, through 2016. The government would phase down its share of the cost to 90 percent by 2020, with states paying the rest. The expansion would provide coverage to millions of uninsured adults without children.

"Medicaid expansion is about protecting the most vulnerable Americans at the most vulnerable moments in their lives," Baldwin said. "Illness and accident can befall anyone. But it shouldn't mean bankruptcy or financial ruin. Whether we can successfully put pressure on Republican governors to follow through with expanding Medicaid will go a long way toward determining whether this law lives up to that principle."

Gov. Scott Walker, who has been an outspoken opponent of the health care law, is among those Republican governors who have yet to commit to expanding Medicaid. He also has declined to establish a state health exchange, or marketplace, through which Wisconsinites can shop for health insurance.

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Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said the governor still is mulling over whether to expand the program under BadgerCare.

"The last budget Gov. Walker signed into law increased state taxpayer spending on Medicaid by $1.2 billion -- the largest increase in our state's history, and one of the largest increases per capita in the country," spokesman Cullen Werwie said. "We're still evaluating the impact future Medicaid expansions would have on Wisconsin citizens."

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Copyright:(c) 2010 Federal Information & News Dispatch, Inc.


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