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Democrats, residents rally in Eau Claire for BadgerCare expansion

Eau Claire (WQOW) – Some Eau Claire residents urged state legislators to accept the available funding to support the BadgerCare Plus expansion in Wisconsin’s budget.

The WI Department of Health Services reported 1,400 people in Eau Claire County would gain healthcare coverage, with a federal investment of $46 million.

“These are people who are working, they’re contributing to our community, but they’re poor,” said Representative Jodi Emerson (D-Eau Claire). “It’s not enough money to make ends meet with housing costs, with healthcare, with food, everything that they need. This would allow them to be on BadgerCare in our state, which is a program that, for the patient, is a very cheap and effective way of getting coverage.”

Republicans have been staunchly against accepting the expansion money, which would bring $1.6 billion in federal funds to Wisconsin. State Senator Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls) told News 18 it’s unnecessary because the Affordable Care Act is available.

“The one thing that I’ve always argued that I thought was great about ACA is that as you get more and more income, as you work harder, as you move up the ladder, you don’t lose your health insurance,” said Sen. Bernier. “BadgerCare, that isn’t how it works, you move up, you increase your income, and you lose your healthcare.”

Last month, the state’s budget-writing committee rejected Governor Tony Evers’ plan to accept the funding. Rep. Emerson added, after all his proposed programs were paid for, $324 million would be left for the state to spend on roads or schools. However, Sen. Bernier said with the Medicaid funds, that money can only be used for healthcare coverage.

If the expansion is not accepted, again, Emerson said more than 80,000 people in the state would continue to have poor or no healthcare coverage. Bernier added the state will continue to provide BadgerCare coverage for those under the federal poverty level.

“Let’s think of somebody who’s a diabetic, by keeping up with their healthcare, they stay healthy,” said Emerson. “By ignoring it, they end up going into the emergency room, maybe having an amputation, possibly dying, and then they don’t have coverage, and so who pays for that hospital bill? It’s going to be every other person who is getting services from that hospital.”

Emerson also said about 80% of Wisconsinites support federal funding to expand BadgerCare Plus. The state assembly is set to vote on the budget Tuesday. Right now, the plan Republicans drafted does not include Medicaid Expansion.

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Samantha Wensel

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