Gov. Walker stumbles in addressing allegations he rejected Medic - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Gov. Walker stumbles in addressing allegations he rejected Medicaid expansion to benefit insurers

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) says a liberal organization is "grasping at straws" by accusing him of rejecting the federal expansion of Medicaid as a favor to the insurance industry. 

But in denying the allegation, Gov. Walker's answers on the subject provided only more confusion.

According to the campaign finance watchdog group the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, members of the health insurance industry donated over $1.27 million to Gov. Walker from 2009 through 2013.

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign President Mike McCabe tells 27 News that is close to seven times more than the $183,196 Gov. Jim Doyle got from the same industry from 2005 to 2010. 

The liberal social justice group Citizen Action of Wisconsin claims there is a direct correlation between those donations and the Governor's rejection of the federal Medicaid expansion. 

The Governor chose to cover all adults who are at or below 100 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) on BadgerCare Plus, Wisconsin's primary Medicaid insurance program.  But that meant over 87,000 people, whose incomes fall between 100 and 133 percent of FPL, were kicked off of BadgerCare Plus.  While some of those people ended up taking employer-sponsored health insurance, Citizen Action estimates over 72,000 are only eligible for private insurance through the federal marketplace.  If Governor Walker had accepted the expansion of Medicaid, those people would still be covered under BadgerCare Plus.

Citizen Action officials believe there's no doubt Gov. Walker's made his decision to benefit the insurance companies who donated to his campaign.   When asked about that specific allegation Monday afternoon, Gov. Walker seemed to be at a rare loss for words.
   
"Actually if you think about it, its just the opposite," said Gov. Walker.  "It means fewer people would be on insurance actually, if...in the end...if there were...more people there they'd be under Medicaid.  It's not a, for us, it has no decision one way or the other."

To clear up that answer, 27 News specifically asked the Governor if he was saying insurance companies did not benefit at all from his Medicaid decision, even though it meant more customers for them.

"In the end, I'm saying you had people before that were on a wait list.  Those weren't folks that were affected one way or another by insurance out there. The fact is they weren't, to my knowledge, they haven't lobbied me personally or anybody in my administration on this," said Gov. Walker.

A spokesperson for the Wisconsin Association of Health Plans, a top insurance lobbying group, says his agency was not involved in advocating for or against the Medicaid expansion at all.

Mike McCabe, President of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, says the public isn't privy to the lobbying activities on this decision, but he believes that campaign records and end result speak for themselves, because public opinion was not on the Governor's side.

"When you look at what the public can see, it's just not plausible to think that one isn't connected to the other," said McCabe.

Polls on the issue have consistently shown Wisconsin voters want the state to accept the expansion of Medicaid benefits.

Citizen Action estimates the insurance industry could benefit by as much as $350 million each year from the rejection of Medicaid's expansion. Much of that money would come from the federal government, because those kicked off BadgerCare Plus qualify for the highest level of tax credits to help pay for private insurance premiums in the federal marketplace.

The Wisconsin Association of Health Plans would not verify that number however.  Officials there said they didn't know how Citizen Action constructed its claims.
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