Medicaid matters to Wisconsin – Green Bay Press Gazette

Medicaid works in Wisconsin. Everyone in our state has benefited from its positive impact, though we may not always recognize it.

In Wisconsin, Medicaid-funded programs keep older adults and people with disabilities in their homes and out of expensive institutions, make sure babies are born healthy and kids get the health care they need, help people with mental health and addiction recover, and provide health care security for low-income working adults.

Wisconsin receives a tremendous return on investment from Medicaid, and the impact of a high-quality system in the lives of the people who rely on it is almost incalculable.

Medicaid is an investment in the health of the workforce that drives Wisconsin’s economy. When people have access to preventive health care they can avoid getting sick and better manage chronic conditions, keeping them in the workforce and out of hospitals. Medicaid-funded supports allow family caregivers to keep their jobs instead of being forced to leave the workforce — jeopardizing their own financial futures — to care for family members. In addition, Medicaid helps support the health care sector and provides tens of thousands of jobs to help support Wisconsin’s economy, and the health care infrastructure and services we all need.

Wisconsin’s Medicaid investment has saved state taxpayer dollars. Cost-saving and health-enhancing home- and community-based care and supports account for 40 percent of Wisconsin’s Medicaid budget, although they are rarely mentioned in the debate over health care reform. Programs like Family Care have allowed people needing long-term care to remain in their homes rather than ending up in much more expensive institutional settings. Proactive prenatal services and care coordination help reduce costly neonatal intensive care admissions.

Under the Affordable Care Act nearly a quarter of a million more Wisconsinites have health insurance. This increase in coverage has benefitted Wisconsin’s economy and its citizens. Hospital-based uncompensated care costs have decreased by more than $500 million dollars from 2013 to 2015, lowering costs to hospitals and reducing cost shifting to health care consumers.

We have opportunities to make Medicaid dollars work even harder for Wisconsin. By expanding Medicaid coverage and letting more people participate in BadgerCare, Wisconsin stands to gain $190 million in annual savings. There are no cost savings when people are allowed to remain sick. Wisconsin’s public policy should promote improved access to health care coverage and care instead of denying and excluding people from health care.

Wisconsin must stand up to harmful Congressional proposals. National health care reform that hurts Wisconsin’s low-income seniors, children, people with disabilities and mental health conditions, low-income pregnant women and low-income working people costs us all more.

Congress’ most recent approach to health care “reform” would change the Affordable Care Act and dramatically cut Medicaid funding to states. The people of Wisconsin have much to lose. Congress proposes to pass on to states the hard decisions about waiting lists, service reductions or terminations, rationed care and access to needed services for vulnerable populations. Moreover, nothing in the recent health care proposal addresses the actual drivers of health care costs — it only reduces the funding available to states to address these costs.

Because Wisconsin did not elect the Medicaid expansion, it has already achieved significant Medicaid savings by investing in community care for people with disabilities and elderly Wisconsinites, and has the lowest per-capita Medicaid spending for children in the nation — Wisconsin stands to be one of the biggest losers under the health care “reform” proposal currently being considered in Congress.

According to the language of the proposal in Congress, any attempt by Wisconsin to make up the “difference” in Medicaid funding will be met by a dollar-for-dollar reduction in federal funding. That is not flexibility — that is an unfunded mandate to reduce coverage, care, and support for our most vulnerable citizens.

It’s time for Wisconsin to recognize the value of Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act to its people, the economy, and our sate. We can’t afford any less.

Daniel Idzikowski is executive director of Disability Rights Wisconsin, Robert Kellerman is executive director of Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources, and Bobby Peterson is executive director of ABC for Health.

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