WAUSAU, WI (WSAU) -- With the reveal of Governor Tony Evers' first state budget just days away, Citizen Action Wisconsin is renewing the call for Wisconsin to accept federal money to allow for the expansion of BadgerCare.
Executive Director Robert Kraig held a news conference at the Wausau Universalist Unitarian Church along with supervisors from Oneida and Wood counties calling for area Senators to make accepting the money a priority in the upcoming budget.
"There are 75,000 low income working people who are just above the poverty line who could have affordable health care, but don't," he said. "I think there is overwhelming public support for taking this money. People think that health care needs to be more affordable, and more accessible. This is a huge step in that direction."
Kraig cites several 2014 non-binding ballot referendums statewide that showed at least 55% or more of residents wanted to see the state take the money that's been made available through the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
Those results showed more than 70% of voters saying yes to the funding in Portage and Wood Counties. Between 58-69% of voters in Oneida, Lincoln, and Clark Counties also approved similar measures.
Kraig noted that in the case of Oneida and Clark counties, the measures passed even though those areas have traditionally gone very conservative. Kraig went on to blame former Governor Scott Walker for keeping Wisconsin out of the program, saying Walker used the move as a stunt to prop up his poll numbers during his failed attempt to run for President in 2014.
He adds that Wisconsin is the only Great Lakes state not accepting the money. "What Walker did was expand Medicaid in the most expensive way possible. We are paying more for less coverage. It is literally like buying a subcompact car when you could have bought a luxury car for the same money."
Supervisors who spoke during Monday's news conference included Has Breitenmoser of Lincoln County. Both noted that not expanding BadgerCare results in some residents not taking the chance of starting their own business or leaving for a better job because it would mean losing coverage for their families.
Steven Schrier from Oneida County noted that the federal money in question has been reserved for Wisconsin, and includes federal tax dollars paid by Wisconsin residents. "We've already paid for it, the money has gone out to the feds, and sits there or gets sent to [another state]. They have just as many needs as we do here in Wisconsin but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be getting back the money that we paid into the system."
Kraig says he expects Evers will make the issue a cornerstone of his upcoming budget proposal on Thursday. While Republicans could remove the measure before sending it back to Evers for his signature. Should that happen, Kraig expects the Governor to flex his veto power to have it put back into the plan, considering the public support he sees for the measure and Evers' strong stance on it during the campaign.