Bill Kaplan: Bipartisan support for expanding BadgerCare

October 10, 2022

This opinion originally appeared in WisPolitics.

The column below reflects the views of the author, and these opinions are neither endorsed nor supported by

The nonpartisan American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACSCAN) released a new poll showing widespread support for expansion of BadgerCare, Wisconsin’s Medicaid program. The poll showed: “70% (of) Wisconsin voters support fully expanding BadgerCare… .” This included similar majorities among rural, suburban and urban voters. Moreover, the poll showed 96% of Democratic voters, 60% of independent voters and 49% of GOP voters supported expansion. In addition, a “majority of Wisconsin voters (55%) say they would be more likely to vote for a political candidate who supported fully expanding BadgerCare.” What are GOP politicians, some doctors and hospitals afraid of?

Sara Sahli, Wisconsin government relations director of ACSCAN, said: “Wisconsin voters clearly understand the importance of affordable health coverage and want their lawmakers to take action to expand BadgerCare. Voters want Wisconsin to join the 38 other states (many GOP-led) who have expanded their Medicaid programs and they are paying close attention this election season.” The ACSCAN also released a state gubernatorial voter guide asking: “70% of Wisconsinites have consistently expressed solid support for BadgerCare expansion in statewide polls. Will you commit to joining this overwhelming majority in support of BadgerCare expansion in 2023?”

Democratic Governor Tony Evers responded: “Yes, I continue to believe in the importance of expanding BadgerCare to support Wisconsin’s workforce, farmers, and small businesses, provide affordable coverage to even more Wisconsin families… . BadgerCare expansion is supported by a wide majority of Wisconsin and I’ll continue to work to bring people together on this issue.” Evers referenced his budget proposals calling for expansion. And, he said: “Wisconsin is one of only 12 states that has not expanded its Medicaid system, and an expansion would allow an additional 90,000 Wisconsinites to receive coverage and save the state more than $1 billion.” Statesmanship! GOP challenger Tim Michels did not respond to ACSCAN. Zip!

Out-ot-touch millionaire Michels hears conspiratorial voices, but doesn’t hear those without health coverage, including the disabled, elderly, sick, low-income working people and dairy and other farmers. His website has no references to expanding state health coverage for Wisconsinites. Who does Michels represent? Perhaps if Michels spent less time in his Connecticut mansion and NYC penthouse and more time listening to struggling Wisconsinites he would get it. Perhaps if Michels understood math he would have an epiphany on why expanding BadgerCare is a bargain.

If Wisconsin expanded BadgerCare the federal government would pay 90% of its cost, permanently. In addition, under the American Rescue Plan Act, the federal government would give Wisconsin a 5% increase in its regular BadgerCare federal match for two years. That’s $1.6 billion over two years in increased funding for Wisconsin. Federal funds would be substituted for state funding for enrolled childless low-income adults. Moreover, the state would then have much more state funding for other needs, including for bridges, roads, high-speed internet, schools and the UW System. The GOP commitment to ideological stupidity and shortsightedness has left these urgent needs sorely underfunded.

Governor Evers has a heart. And, the longtime educator gets math.

– Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C., for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 – 2009.