Joint Finance Comm. rejects federal money to expand BadgerCare

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MADISON (WITI) -- On a party-line vote, the Joint Finance Committee has rejected more federal money to expand BadgerCare.

As a standing room only crowd stood watch, the JFC debated and voted on a key provision of the federal health care law. The question was: who's approach to providing health care to the uninsured is better: Gov. Scott Walker's or President Barack Obama's.

President Obama's signature health care law would have provided Wisconsin with more than $100 million in federal money to expand Medicaid -- the insurance program for the poor and disabled known in Wisconsin as BadgerCare.

"They have the opportunity to take the money to make sure those hardworking people can be covered," Joel Lewis said.

Republicans say accepting federal money is risky business.

"It's like dealing with quicksand. You don't know exactly how it's going to go," Sen. Alberta Darling (R - River Hills) said.

"It doesn't matter whether the money is coming out of my left pocket or my right pocket, it's still my money," Rep. John Nygren (R - Marinette) said.

Democrats say it's not the pocketbook but the politics motivating Republicans.

"We're not going to let you spend $119 million of our tax dollars just so you can do well in a primary and brag about turning away federal dollars from the Obama administration," Rep. Cory Mason (D - Racine) said.

At one point, a man stood up and disrupted the Committee -- saying he was on the BadgerCare waiting list, he was soon taken out of the hearing.

Eventually, the motions rejecting the federal money and adopting Gov. Walker's plan were passed.

"Governor Walker has put out a proposal that is a reform of Medicaid that is sustainable for the program, so those under 100% of poverty will remain on Medicaid, and those above will go onto the exchange and depending on their income, they'll be subsidized," Sen. Darling said.

"It's a colossal mistake. It defies logic why they're doing this and it's a real shame that we turned our back on 85,000 people and cost the state so much money," Rep. Jon Richards (D - Milwaukee) said.

The JFC voted to pay hospitals more than $70 million to cover emergency room care for uninsured patients.

"We're sort of putting some money in the dish -- payments just to make sure that if they get care, hospitals will be taken care of," Sen. Luther Olson (R - Ripon) said.

The issues of voucher expansion and income tax cuts were expected to come before the JFC Tuesday night.