By James Wigderson for Media Trackers
Is Josh Kaul running for the wrong office? Kaul, the Democratic candidate for Wisconsin Attorney General, announced on Twitter Monday his support for expanding Medicaid in Wisconsin.
“53 years ago today, President Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law,” Kaul wrote. “Now let’s expand Medicaid in WI.”
The office of the Wisconsin Attorney General has no role in whether Wisconsin expands Medicaid coverage under Obamacare. The decision to expand Medicaid coverage, from 100 percent of the federal poverty line for childless adults to 133 percent of the federal poverty line, is a state budgetary decision controlled by the governor and the legislature.
Brian Fraley, a campaign advisor to Attorney General Brad Schimel, wondered if Kaul meant to file for the legislature in June.
“Once again, Hillary Clinton’s Attorney seems more interested in changing the law, not enforcing the law,” Fraley said in a statement to Media Trackers. “Someone get him a Blue Book. Maybe he thinks he’s running for State Assembly.”
Kaul represented Clinton in the recount of the presidential vote in Wisconsin following her loss to President Donald Trump in 2016. The recount was initiated by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, but was joined by the Clinton campaign.
The Twitter post included a video of Kaul making the false claim that Wisconsin taxpayers would save money by expanding BadgerCare, the Medicaid program in Wisconsin.
“We could cover tens of thousands more Wisconsinites under BadgerCare,” Kaul claimed. “And we could save about $190 million a year that we could put to other uses.”
Kaul’s numbers assume Wisconsin residents don’t pay federal taxes and he ignores the success of the reform of Wisconsin’s Medicaid program under Governor Scott Walker.
When Democratic Governor Jim Doyle was in charge and Kaul’s mother Peg Lautenschlager was the state’s attorney general, Wisconsin’s BadgerCare program had a waiting list of 43,000 people.
Instead of taking Obamacare money to expand Medicaid, as Kaul wished, Walker set the coverage for everyone under the federal poverty line, eliminating the waiting list. Above the federal poverty line, Wisconsinites could participate in the healthcare exchange set up by the federal government. As a result of the changes, the Kaiser Foundation said Wisconsin is the only state that refused to accept the Obamacare money for Medicaid expansion that does not have a health insurance coverage gap.
As for the supposed savings from taking the federal money for Medicaid expansion, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) estimates the Medicaid expansion in Wisconsin will actually cost taxpayers $1.15 billion in increased federal spending over the next budget cycle. This would mean a net loss to Wisconsin taxpayers of $761.8 million, using projected state budget savings minus increased federal spending. By the end of the 2021 budget cycle, the projected net cost of Medicaid expansion in Wisconsin is actually $1.59 billion, using LFB calculations from 2017.
Instead of using $190 million for “other purposes” (which, for Kaul, does not include lower taxes), Wisconsinites would be increasing the federal debt for no gain in health care coverage.