When Gov. Scott Walker announced his plans in February 2013 to not accept federal funding to pay for Medicaid for people making up to 133 percent of the poverty level, he was met with harsh criticism from throughout the state.
But during the past year he remained steadfast and has explained that his main goal was to not expose Wisconsin taxpayers to the uncertain future cost of expanding Medicaid.
He was concerned the federal government will eventually start sending Wisconsin less Medicaid money and the state will be left with another unfunded mandate.
Now, with the federal Affordable Care Act enrollment deadline imminent, it would be easy to brush concern aside. To say we should accept the federal money and if the federal government starts to cut back, then we can stop the coverage and quickly send people to the marketplace.
That could help the people who are now figuring out the ACA is not really affordable for all, such as people living just above the poverty level shivering at the thought of high deductibles and co-pays. Expand Medicaid and the problem would be solved, some claim.
But our ultimate goal should be to motivate more people to get ahead, rather than giving them a reason to stay where they are because of fear of losing government assistance.
Also, 10 years or five years from now — or even one year from now — we cannot say with certainty who will be in power in either the Oval Office or the governor’s office.
Politically, depending on who is in control, it likely will not be an option to just sign a bill and stop coverage when Medicaid money stops coming in.
On top of that, there’s the periodic uncertainty of whether government dysfunction will lead to another federal shutdown.
If there were a guarantee that federal funds wouldn’t be cut, maybe the governor would make a different decision about the federal funds. But it’s nearly impossible in our current political environment to have any guarantees.
After all, we were also promised anyone who wants to keep their plan will be able to. That didn’t happen.
That broken promise has been repeated once or twice before, but as President Barack Obama said when he was campaigning on the promise, “it bears repeating.”