Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, D-Milwaukee, probably has better things to do than attack Republican Governor Scott Walker on Medicaid. After all, his city has a huge crime problem, including a human trafficking problem, that’s getting worse. The Milwaukee police chief is resisting efforts to force the police department to actually chase criminals in car chases. Meanwhile, Milwaukee County judges and Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm (D) have decided that locking up criminals is wrong.
Barrett is strangely silent on those issues, except for the part where he blames the state legislature for his troubles and wants to reduce the number of police on the streets.
On the other hand, the city of Milwaukee budget has benefitted from the savings from Act 10. And, thanks to Walker, Foxconn may be building a new headquarters building in Barrett’s city. You would think Barrett would be grateful.
But Barrett told Fox 6 news in Milwaukee that Wisconsin should take the federal money to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.
“We’re in this rare occurrence where fiscally it makes all the sense in the world for us to accept these dollars and from a healthcare perspective, it makes all the sense in the world for us to make sure these individuals are covered by BadgerCare,” Barrett said.
In case Barrett hasn’t noticed, Obamacare is dying. Yet another insurer, California-based health insurer Molina Healthcare, has pulled out of the exchanges, affecting 30 counties and almost 29,000 people in Wisconsin, according to Wisconsin Public Radio. Compared to other states, Wisconsin is lucky to have still 12 insurance providers in the exchange. Iowa has one provider, and much of Nevada is without any health insurance providers in the exchange.
As for the supposed savings to the taxpayer that Democrats like to tout, they’re an illusion. In the latest memo from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau on the subject, Wisconsin would “save” $380 million over the next biennium. However, the federal government would actually spend over $1 billion to achieve that “savings,” or an actual net loss to the taxpayers of $694.5 million. Since federal money must either come from taxes or more borrowing (and higher taxes later), there is no “savings.”
Congress may not get rid of Obamacare completely, but it’s highly unlikely that the high reimbursement rates for the states that took the Medicaid expansion will continue, putting those states on the hook for the expansion. In 2015, the cost of Medicaid expansion was $68 billion, about 62 percent higher than expected. That’s not sustainable. Barrett would like to jump on the sinking ship just before it goes under, drowning Wisconsin in future Medicaid spending.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin is actually doing better than many states that did take the Medicaid expansion. We eliminated the waiting list for BadgerCare and, according to the Kaiser Foundation, we eliminated the health insurance coverage gap. If real market reforms are made at the federal level, like allowing high-risk pools, Wisconsin is in a better position to take advantage than other states.
We understand Barrett’s fantasy that federal money is somehow free, given the amount of federal money he’s blowing on a streetcar that will run along existing bus routes. But Milwaukee’s portion of the bill will come due, especially if the streetcar expands as planned. Barrett’s constituents will understand better than the mayor the real cost of federal dollars.
But if Barrett is so bored with running a city, perhaps he should run for governor again. He could sweep aside the current weak field of Democrats and make a third attempt to defeat Walker in next year’s election. It’s no secret that becoming mayor was a consolation prize for Barrett after he lost the Democratic gubernatorial primary to former Governor Jim Doyle. He’s run twice against Walker since then, including the recall election.
Let Barrett follow in Mary Burke’s footsteps and attempt to make Medicaid expansion an issue. When that doesn’t work, Barrett could tout the legislative Democrats’ budget-busting plan of Medicaid for everyone. That way we can wreck the state’s fiscal health for a generation while Wisconsinites receive poorer health care.
When that idea fails, Barrett could run on his record as mayor as soon as the shooting stops.