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Gov. Scott Walker

Gov. Scott Walker

Gretchen Gilham of La Crosse says she and her daughter are beset with health problems they can’t address because they can’t afford insurance.

“I wish you could understand what it is like not to have insurance,” the 51-year-old Gilham said Monday at a press conference in the La Crosse County Administrative Center. “I wish you could stand in the cold outside a free clinic, not knowing whether you will get in.”

Gilham, Democratic state legislators and other officials are urging Republican Gov. Scott Walker to accept $12 billion in federal Medicaid money over a 10-year period to expand BadgerCare for low- and moderate-income residents.

Walker, who has expressed reservations about accepting the money, has said he will reveal his decision when he unveils his budget Feb. 20.

Gilham, who doesn’t receive health benefits through her part-time janitorial job, said she has diverticulitis and needs a colonoscopy.

She is among an estimated 3,600 low-income La Crosse County residents who could qualify for BadgerCare if Walker accepted the money under the federal Affordable Care Act, the officials said.

Statewide, an estimated 172,000 to 220,000 adults between ages 18 and 65 without children living at home — including about 1,630 in Monroe County, 1,120 in Vernon County, 890 in Trempealeau County and 650 in Jackson County — could qualify for coverage if Walker accepts the money, advocates say.

“We’re here to tell him, ’Take the money, dude,’ to improve the quality of life of thousands,” said Monica Kruse, a county supervisor who is chairwoman of the county board’s Health and Human Services Committee.

Under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, the federal government would cover the full cost of the expansion for the first three years, from 2014 to 2016, and 90 percent a year thereafter. The state could opt out after three years.

Walker press secretary Cullen Werwie said the governor’s previous budget “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.”

 “We’re still evaluating the impact future Medicaid expansions would have on Wisconsin citizens,” Werwie said.

Advocates contend that accepting the federal money would save the state and businesses millions of dollars and provide as many as 10,000 new health care jobs.

In addition to covering the childless adults, advocates say it would provide coverage for 146,000 people who are on a waiting list because of caps on BadgerCare, which is where Gilham’s daughter falls.

Ripple effects

Gilham said her daughter, 31-year-old Olivia Margenau of Fort Atkinson, has congenital heart disease that requires a transplant.

“The doctors told her her heart is worn out and they don’t know how long it will last,” she said. “She can’t be put on a donor list without insurance.”

Margenau also has diabetes she has trouble controlling because she can’t afford testing supplies, so she ends up needing emergency room treatment, Gilham said.

Dr. Laurie Logan, a family practitioner at the Mayo Clinic Health System-La Crosse, said low-income  people without insurance struggle so much paying day-to-day bills that they postpone health care.

As a result, they often end up using the more expensive emergency room when their problems become severe, she said.

And those costs get shifted to insured patients, said Rep. Steve Doyle, D-Onalaska, who also is a county supervisor.

State Sen. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said noted that some GOP governors who have been staunch critics of Obamacare, such as Jan Brewer of Arizona, are embracing  the Medicaid expansion.

The most recent Republican to do so is Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who derided the health care law as a “massive new tax on the middle class” last summer.

On Monday, Kasich included the expansion in his two-year budget plan, making 365,000 more state residents eligible for Medicaid.

Although he said he still objects to parts of the overall law, he said the Medicaid expansion “makes great sense for the state of Ohio.”

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(21) comments


The increasing use of Medicaid is not an indication that we have a moocher society. Rather, it is an indication that we have a flawed employment and health system. K accurately points out that many people simply do not have access to affordable health insurance due to mediocre pay and high premiums or the absence of health care offered through their line of work. I, for one, am a supporter of eliminating tying health insurance to employment. It eases burdens upon employers and places everyone on an even playing field (self-contractors have access to the same care employees of large corporations have). Tying health insurance to one's employment is an archaic system that dates back to the job market of World War II.


This is a VERY excellent idea quimby. It would also eliminate any governmental programs to employers who do provide those benefits, including the flawed ERISA system that many employers and insurance companies use to get around any labor laws. Any benefit package through a employer does not have to follow any laws in this country. Employers and insurance companies use ERISA to force people into government programs.


Basically, you describe a single-payer plan. That is what most industrialized nations have gone to using. It is less expensive, it provide better outcomes, more people are covered (everyone is, in fact) and the costs grow more slowly. However, on the downside, health profiteers don't live in those countries. Darn, who will support a rich dude?


"Cullen Werwie said the governor’s previous budget '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.' "

Walker would not have increased spending on Medicaid voluntarily. When he took office there were a lot of people who needed help due to the poor condition of the recessed economy. Therefore, spending on the safety net program Medicaid increased. Walker actually underfunded the request by the Department of Health Services to meet the needs of Wisconsin residents who were finding it difficult to make ends meet due to layoffs or cutbacks in hours.

Do not be deceived by attempts to portray Walker as a supporter of Medicaid.


another thing-have you noticed how many employers are cutting peoples hours so they fall just below the amount needed to receive benefits-there goes their insurance-this is happening more and more-less and less full time jobs that u can get full time employment in and this includes some of the larger employers around here!


This is epidemic, k, especially in big corporations. Corporate America's attitude: "Hard to pay our employees a living wage if we are paying our exec's millions per year plus bonuses. So let's not only skip giving our employees a raise, let's cut their hours. How else can we keep paying our king's ransom salaries?"

Greed sucks.


Too many people are getting Badgercare when they shouldn't even qualify for it. How does a family with one or both parents working full-time jobs where health insurance is offered qualify for Badgercare? Why don't they have to take advantage of the health insurance offered them by their employer first? Then if there is still a need they could go to the government to help. Badgercare needs to change some of their rules so only those who are truly in need are getting their help.


my son works full time -single rate for insurance for him is 250 a month-he is not makeing high wages and this makes him wonder at times if he can buy groceries-there are alot of jobs in this area that are not high paying jobs-people need help to make ends meet-u shouldnt have to live with the fear of a medical bankruptsy always hanging over your head-lacrosse needs better paying jobs.


Bulls eye. For those who think anybody can get a job and then afford anything they want, look at the want ads. Part time, part time and a lot of part time. Unless you're an over the road truck driver or a trained medical something, you're SOL. Call my bluff, pat. Look at the want ads.


"Too many people are getting Badgercare when they shouldn't even qualify for it. How does a family with one or both parents working full-time jobs where health insurance is offered qualify for Badgercare?" Badgercare eligibility is based on income, pat. If that couple works two full time jobs EACH and doesn't make enough money, they qualify. If they do make enough money, they don't qualify. Do the math, just once, so you know what you're talking about. Dad makes $10 an hour working 40 hours per week (or less). That's $400 per week, minus taxes = about $300 per week take home = about $1,200 per month. Now make that $1,200 cover $1,000 per month for a family insurance plan.$500 per month for groceries, $500 (probably more) for mortgage or rent, $150 for utilities, etc. Now throw in school clothes, gas for the car, etc., etc. Does that make things clearer? It sounds like you've never tried to support a family on that kind of money. Many, many families have to these days.


I implore the Governor to ABOLISH Badger Care - not expand it. "Low income" people can get off their tails and GET A JOB - PAY for Health Care and other needs like I do. Do you waddle out of WalMart without paying your bill ? Why should YOU receive free of reduced price care ? Pay your own bill or go without !


You do realize that most low income people ARE working, right? The problem is that people like you are so greedy that you refuse to pay people enough to eat and keep their bills paid, and on top of that don't provide any benefits.

I rarely wish ill upon anyone, but your comments make me want to see YOU live under the same brutal high work/low-income conditions as those you so cold-heartedly criticize. Then maybe your attitude would shift a bit.


Very simple Oz - If you want what I have , do what I do. You couldn't do it.


What do you do that is so difficult?


i so agree oz-they make it sound like a cakewalk


you sound very cold and indifferent get some empathy


scomls, really???!! You know their are low-income people due to disabilities, and even some who are older living on Social Security. Of course you don't know, you also don't know that the cost of insurance to anyone who is older or with any disabilities...I personally can tell you that a single person, age 60 health insurance is over $1000 a month and that is with a $5000 co-pay. Who can afford that when their income is minimum the math and shut your mouth.


What am I missing here? Will these people not be able to get FULLY subsidized healthcare insurance policies with no exclusions through the heathcare exchanges being set up by whoever (fed or state) starting in 2014 if they indeed are that poor? I feel for anyone in their situation, but I fail to see what the difference will be whether it's medicaid or "free" health insurance in 2014. Seriously, please enlighten me. In regards to her daughter , does medicaid cover the cost of a heart transplant now?

Mr Bluejeans

yeah, better to continue trillion dollar wars overseas and let our own citizens die of treatable disease. But but ... wait, EVERYONE has healthcare, right? Just go to the ER where they cant turn you away. Spend considerably more money with bandaid ER approaches to the problem rather than make sure everyone has appropriate healthcare coverage. We spend 30% more in healthcare than Canada and the reason is overhead due to the byzantine maze of paperwork from for-profit private insurance corporations (documented in the New England Journal of Medicine). It's more important that corporations make a profit (and the Pentagon gets it's excess funding) than Americans get proper healthcare.


Yep, you pretty much summed it up.


I think the issue is that the money offered is intended to be used to subsidize these people's insurance. I think it is being done at the state level. If Walker turns it down, then people will be excluded because the state doesn't have the money. Again, I think that is the way it would work...

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