Could BadgerCare balance the budget? Some lawmakers say cuts to UW System could be avoided – but how?

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MADISON (WITI) -- Could BadgerCare balance the budget? That's what some lawmakers are asking after reviewing Governor Scott Walker's proposed cuts to the UW-System. Some in Governor Walker's own party are turning to President Barack Obama's health care law as a potential solution.

Some lawmakers say there's a way to keep funding for the University of Wisconsin System and actually provide health insurance to more people, but it involves accepting federal money available to Wisconsin through the national health care law -- money that Republicans rejected two years ago.

"It's not a sacred cow," Senator Luther Olson (R-Ripon) said.

Senator Luther says he'll discuss the idea of reversing course and taking the federal money with his fellow Republicans.

"When we're having to make cuts like this, we have to review the decision we made two years ago, and is it still the right decision? All the other states are accepting the money. Is this the right thing?" Senator Olson said.

The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates that the Medicaid expansion could bring in an extra $300 million to $350 million over the two-year budget -- the same amount Walker is proposing slashing from the UW System.

So is it time to re-think the proposed cuts to the UW System?

"No. Long-term, that's a foolhardy suggestion for a federal government that's got a $17 trillion debt and has already started to renege on reimbursement promises they made to physicians across the country," Walker said.

Walker says the federal government could scale back funding in the future and will not support the idea, but Senator Olson says he's not concerned about Walker's stance.

"I'm not worried about him going for it -- I'm worried about what the Legislature does, because if we save that money and spend it on something else, it's going to be really difficult to change that," Senator Olson said.

This week, Democratic lawmakers proposed a bill asking Governor Walker to meet them halfway and accept a modified Medicaid expansion, known as the "Iowa model." But Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says the state has already found a good middle ground without taking the federal money.

"We're literally paying more to get less," Dr. Robert Kraig with Citizen Action of Wisconsin said.

Kraig says the rejection of federal funding makes no sense, and notes that all of the Great Lakes states are taking the money.

"The amount is so large that you could avoid all of the cuts in UW and provide BadgerCare to a lot more people just above the poverty line just by taking the money. The only reason not to take the money is Governor Walker's single-minded desire to sabotage health care reform," Kraig said.

Walker says the proposal for cuts to the UW System could change if the amount of spring tax revenues comes in larger than expected.

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