Friday, November 29, 2013

Not thankful for another right-wing media fail on Medicaid

We finally got the LFB information on the Special Session bill designed to extend Wisconsin's current Medicaid laws by 3 months, and there doesn't seem to be a lot of surprises with it. The intent is to make sure Wisconsin families with children and incomes between 100-200% of the poverty line continue to get BadgerCare until April 1, to make sure they don't have any gap in coverage between the end of the year and the time that they are able to get coverage through the federal Obamacare exchanges.

The flip side of this bill is that aproximately 83,000 adults without children who have incomes at the poverty line or below won't be able to get Medicaid until April 1, instead of the January 1 date they are currently slated to be able to get coverage. The upshot of this is that you still have tens of thousands of Wisconsinites getting thrown off of Medicaid and onto the federal insurance exchanges between January 1 and April 1.

So what did the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Jason Stein emphasize in his article on the Medicaid bill on Wednesday? He decides to prop up the $23 million in taxpayer "savings" that will result from delaying the Medicaid changes by 3 months. That number comes from the LFB's analysis, which describes the changes this way.

Changes in Special Session Medicaid bill
3 more months of Medicaid for parents +$17.2 million
Delaying eligibility for adults w/o children -$38.9 million
Delays in expanded prison inmate services -$1.4 million
TOTAL CHANGE -$23.1 million

Now to Stein's credit, he mentions in the article that the bill makes the Department of Corrections have to come up with $2.8 million in extra costs to pay for hospital services for inmates. But the article is still written in favor of the Walker Administration, in a classic example of the MMAC's mouthpiece using GOP framing of this issue to make it sound like Gov. Walker is saving taxpayer dollars and covering more people. However, there are other options favored by Democrats that are on the table that would either cover more people, save more money, or do both.

Stein does at least mention one of these options that would sure no one gets the rug yanked out from under them. State Sen. David Cullen wrote a letter to Gov. Walker Wednesday saying that the state should be covering both childless adults and low-income people with children through the end of March. Cullen points out the cruelty of adding 3 months of delay to childless adults, and notes that the state could easily afford to do so.
The proposed three-month delay risks serious health care concerns for 80,000 who already know of a health problem but put off care because they cannot afford it, or may have cancer or a heart problem that they do not know exists because they display no symptoms and have had no insurance to receive regular check-ups. A three-month delay of coverage to our poorest citizens can and will be extremely damaging and even life-threatening to many of these 80,000 Wisconsin residents.

It is clear that the best option available is to accept federal dollars to fund proper care for both of these groups, and I would find a decision to reject federal dollars for only three months to be outrageous. However, even if the legislature decides not to accept federal dollars, we can still afford to fund coverage for both groups with state funds.

In announcing his decision to hold a special session, Governor Walker stated that "we are talking about real people's lives." I could not agree with him more. That is why I believe it is critical that we guarantee proper health care to both of these groups for three months and avoid all the problems that will certainly occur otherwise.

It's also telling that Stein's article doesn't even consider the option that's the best of all worlds- taking Obamacare's expanded Medicaid funding and sticking with it. The LFB estimated in February that taking the federal Medicaid funds would save Wisconsinites $105 million between now and the middle of 2015 vs. what we have today, save $82 million compared to the special session bill, and cover around 60,000 more people (Walker's policy is Scenario 2, taking the expanded Medicaid is Scenario 4A). This is separate from the issue from having the state set up any kind of exchange for insurance, and could be done tomorrow. But Walker and other TeaBags aren't considering taking that common-sense step, even as evidence piles up that expanded Medicaid funding is politically popular, and is covering large amounts of people in the states that have done it.

Not mentioning that expanded Medicaid funding could be on the table is a major tell in the Journal-Sentinel's coverage, and it's especially disappointing to see Stein's coverage be slanted this way, as he was a main member in the Journal-Sentinel team that exposed the United Sportsmen of Wisconsin scandal, and dug down to find its oligarch roots.

What happened to that guy? I haven't heard much on the United Sportsmen story in the last couple of months, even though they have the same funders as the people being named in John Doe Deux. Did Stein get orders from "upstairs" at JournalComm to back off their boy Scotty, and to frame his articles in a way that makes Walker look compassionate as he needlessly throws tens of thousands of Wisconsinites into turmoil with his Medicaid policies? It sure feels like it.

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