Rock County Board members will vote today on whether to place an advisory referendum on the 2020 spring ballot asking voters if they think Wisconsin should expand Medicaid as allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act.

The vote on an advisory referendum comes after Gov. Tony Evers proposed expanding Medicaid in his 2019-21 state budget plan to cover childless adults, parents and caretakers with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level. The proposal would have broadened coverage to about 82,000 more state residents, Evers has said.

Republicans in the state Legislature blasted the proposal and excluded it from their budget proposal. Evers, who signed the GOP state budget last week with some modifications, told The Gazette on Tuesday he wants to foster bipartisan support for Medicaid expansion in the future.

Rock County Board member Kathy Schulz drafted the resolution that would place the referendum on the April 7, 2020, ballot—the same day as the state’s presidential primary elections.

The county’s Human Services Board unanimously passed the resolution June 12.

Schulz said she proposed the referendum to raise awareness among voters about the benefits of expanding Medicaid.

She called Republicans’ move to block Medicaid expansion “illogical” and “outrageous.” She said boosting Medicaid coverage would save money and allow Rock County to broaden its health care services without relying on the tax levy.

“Why is it OK to subsidize Foxconn and not health care?” Schulz said. “The idea is the same—it’s to get people working and functioning and being able to afford medicine. … It doesn’t make any sense.”

In April, Rock County Human Services Director Kate Luster said Medicaid expansion and more federal funding for health care programs would “have a positive impact for our client base and for our budget.”

Wisconsin would have leveraged about $1.6 billion in new federal funding while saving $324.5 million in state spending by expanding Medicaid to the full amount allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act, according to estimates from the Evers administration in April.

Rock County would have seen an estimated $64 million infusion with expanded Medicaid, according to the estimates, and coverage would have been extended to about 2,792 residents.

In Walworth County, Medicaid would have been expanded to an estimated 1,252 residents.

The referendum as proposed would read: “Should the State of Wisconsin accept Affordable Care Act Federal Medicaid funds earmarked to expand health insurance coverage to 82,000 additional Wisconsin residents resulting in the state saving $279.4 million?”

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