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Twenty counties seek waiver to accept federal Medicaid dollars instead of state

RHINELANDER, Wis. (WXPR) - Marathon, Oneida and Lincoln are three of the twenty counties seeking a waiver so they can receive federal Medicaid dollars for BadgerCare expansion. Governor Scott Walker has declined to accept the funds, and is being criticized by Democrats for that decision.

The counties say Walker’s decision leaves them short of providing healthcare for many poor people. Following the lead from Ohio, the 20 counties would like the state to allow the money to pass through the state directly to the counties.

Political action group Wisconsin Citizen Action, which has been highly critical of the Republican Governor and Legislative majority, supports the efforts of the twenty counties and their letter to DHS Secretary Kitty Rhoades.

Kevin Kane Wisconsin Citizen Action says Wisconsin has a long history of this type of funding. “BadgerCare is a Medicaid program.” adding, “Family Care is a county-by-county Medicaid program, except it’s for long term care, so this proposed idea would be, the money would come through the state to the counties that wanted to do it.”

Cuyahoga county near Cleveland has been allowed by Ohio to accept the money. Like Wisconsin, Ohio refused the additional federal Medicaid dollars.

Kane says he's uncertain just what will happen. “We’re not sure if this is something the state would agree to do, but we can now point to another county in another state and say it is possible, and the federal government has allowed it, so hypothetically, the state would allow the counties to access these federal dollars.”

At a meeting earlier this summer the Oneida county board asked the state to accept the extra money, thinking the cost of maintaining health services for the poor would place a greater burden on local taxpayers.  Several other counties passed similar resolutions.

In order for the counties to receive the Obamacare funding, the required demonstration waiver would need approval by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, then the Legislature, and would have to be signed off by the Governor. So far, Governor Walker has not commented on this proposal.