New survey finds broad support for expanding BadgerCare in Wisconsin

October 7, 2022

This article originally appeared in Wisconsin Examiner.

In a new survey, 70% of Wisconsin voters told pollsters that they supported expanding the state’s BadgerCare program — a proposal that has divided Democrats and Republicans in the Capitol but has been largely absent from the 2022 governor’s race.

The poll was commissioned by the lobbying arm of the American Cancer Society. It was conducted jointly by Hart Research Associates, a Democratic-leaning polling firm, and Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican-leaning pollster.

In the Wisconsin survey, 80% of the people who responded said that a candidate’s position on health care is important in their choice of whom to vote for, including 40% who said the issue was very important to them. While Democrats had the strongest response, with 93% identifying health care as an important issue in their voting choice, 69% of independent voters and 72% of Republicans also described health care as important.

Since taking office in January 2019, Gov. Tony Evers has repeatedly sought to expand BadgerCare under the federal Affordable Care Act. BadgerCare — Wisconsin’s version of Medicaid — currently is available to people with incomes up to 100% of the federal poverty guidelines: $13,590 for a single person or $23,030 for a family of three. 

Under the Affordable Care Act, states have had the option of expanding their Medicaid programs with a federal subsidy to include people with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty guidelines, to ensure broader health care coverage among lower-income families. In Wisconsin, that subsidy would save the state an estimated $300 million annually while providing coverage for about 91,000 low-wage workers, advocates say

The American Rescue Plan Act, enacted in 2021, temporarily increased the subsidy, which would have saved Wisconsin more than $2 billion over two years had the state accepted the Medicaid expansion. 

Previous polls have found similarly strong support for expanding BadgerCare.

The two biennial budgets that Evers has drafted since taking office have included BadgerCare expansion, but those provisions were promptly removed by the Republican majority in the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee.

A 55% majority of respondents in the American Cancer Society poll said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supported BadgerCare expansion. That was so for 86% of Democrats, 67% of African Americans, 64% of women and 52% of suburban voters. 

With 70% of voters in the poll overall saying said they supported fully expanding BadgerCare, the survey found consistent support across demographic groups, with 72% of African American voters, 71% of white voters, 74% of urban votes, 69% of suburban voters and 71% of rural voters all saying they were in favor.

There are partisan differences, however. Among Democrats, 96% expressed support for expansion, compared with 60% of independents and 49% of Republicans. 

The poll was conducted Sept. 11-15 of 600 Wisconsin residents. It had a margin of error of 4%, according to the pollsters.