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March 11, 2015

New Enrollment Numbers Add Fuel to the Medicaid Expansion Debate

Surge in BadgerCare Enrollment of Childless Adults Strengthens the Case for Tapping Federal Funding 

As new statistics come in, we can see that the second open enrollment period for the federal insurance Marketplace didn’t merely cause a big increase in Marketplace coverage, it also yielded a surge in BadgerCare enrollment. That’s music to the ears of health care advocates, but a less harmonious development for lawmakers who have to balance the state budget and continue to resist accepting the federal funding that could finance almost all of the cost of covering childless adults in BadgerCare.

A new Wisconsin Budget Project blog post analyzes the latest BadgerCare enrollment figures and their implications for the choices facing state lawmakers over the next couple of months. As that blog post explains, the number of childless adults participating in BadgerCare grew by a total of more than 14,600 (10.3%) in the first two months of 2015.  That unanticipated growth spurt substantially increases the cost of not taking advantage of the funds that Wisconsin taxpayers have been sending to Washington to finance Medicaid expansions.

The Budget Project’s analysis concludes that each additional 1,000 childless adults enrolled in BadgerCare boosts by about $3 million the cost in the next biennium of not harnessing Wisconsin’s share of the Medicaid expansion funds.

The sharp increase in enrollment of childless adults this year suggests that our state is probably coming closer to achieving the goal the Governor set in 2013 of cutting in half the number of uninsured adults in Wisconsin. But that enrollment surge also complicates the challenge of balancing the next budget, and could cause some legislators to consider reneging on their commitment to make sure adults below the poverty level have access to affordable insurance.  The far better choice for low-income Wisconsinites and state taxpayers is to expand BadgerCare and finance childless adult coverage with the funds we have been sending to Washington.

Read more here.

Jon Peacock