Gov. Walker rejects Medicaid dollars, says state needs entitlement reform

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MADISON (WITI) -- Gov. Scott Walker has rejected billions of dollars in federal funding to expand BadgerCare -- the state's health insurance program for the poor and disabled. Gov. Walker says the state and the country need entitlement reform, while health care advocates and Democrats are infuriated over the decision, which they say places politics ahead of people.

Gov. Walker promises his plan will provide insurance to more people in need, and keep the burden off taxpayers. However, Gov. Walker's critics say the numbers don't add up.

57-year-old Andre Pittman injured his leg and his back in a car accident. Now, he can't find work, and needs therapy and medication which he gets from BadgerCare.

"I wouldn't be able to afford my medical bills, get my medication, none of that -- because as of right now I'm disabled," Pittman said.

Pittman is one of 775,000 Wisconsinites on BadgerCare -- the state's Medicaid program. President Barack Obama's health care law would provide billions of dollars to Wisconsin to pay for the expansion of BadgerCare, but on Wednesday, February 13th, Gov. Walker rejected that money.

"Our goal is ultimately about reducing the number of uninsured people in the state of Wisconsin.  I think people will be pleasantly surprised to find we've found an effective way to do that," Gov. Walker said.

Gov. Walker says he plans to spend an additional $664 million in his budget and allow for more people to buy health insurance in the soon-to-be-created healthcare exchanges. He says it would mean more than 224,000 people would be insured.

"We'll be providing multiple options of affordable health care and at the same time we're reducing our long-term burden on the taxpayers of the state of Wisconsin," Gov. Walker said.

Health care advocate Robert Kraig of Citizen Action Wisconsin says Gov. Walker is placing politics before people.

"This is about the governor reaching out to his Tea Party base. This is about the governor thinking about running for president one day and winning a Republican primary," Kraig said.

"I think what people would be surprised to find out is it's not a yes or no proposition," Gov. Walker said.

"Objective experts think it's an all of nothing proposition. The law says you either take the federal Medicaid money to fill the holes in BadgerCare, or you don't," Kraig said.

As for Pittman, he says he is lucky to be one of the people on publicly funded health insurance.

"To me, it's very important because if there wasn't BadgerCare Plus, I wouldn't even have insurance," Pittman said.

Gov. Walker says his decision is part of an effort to reform the state's "entitlement programs" and also proposes increasing requirements to get food stamps.

State Democratic leaders are calling the decision disappointing and disheartening.