Why Would Walker Want to End Children’s BadgerCare Safety Net?

County Executive Calls for Limit on Nationally-Recognized Successful Health Care Plan

MADISON, Wis. — Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker’s recent call for limits on critical BadgerCare health benefits for low-income or displaced workers and repeated criticism of state spending raises concerns he may favor cuts to BadgerCare programs that cover children and expectant mothers.

“Scott Walker’s message is that the nationally-recognized BadgerCare health care program for children should be on the chopping block,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director. “BadgerCare is the most successful state health care access program in America, but praising it won’t win County Executive Walker votes in a right-wing Republican primary for governor.”

According to an interview on Madison television, Walker “a Republican candidate for governor, said he thinks BadgerCare has become an entitlement program, rather than temporary assistance.” [Source: WISC-TV, 10/09/09]

According to statistics available at the State of Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services website, 700,000 children and families receive aid through BadgerCare programs – over 187,000 from Milwaukee County alone. As result of Gov. Jim Doyle’s leadership, and over the objections of other conservative public officials like Walker, the number of children without health care access has dropped to from 110,000 in 2005 to nearly zero. Wisconsin is on the path to have 98% of its citizens covered – among the highest percentage in the nation.

Walker has joined a majority of his fellow Republicans in the state capitol in Along with many Republican legislators, Walker is opposed the expanded access to health care for Wisconsin’s children and families. Walker has repeatedly called for harsh cuts and was a prominent supporters of an unsuccessful effort to pass a disastrous “tax freeze” plan, which would have caused massive firing of teachers, firefighters and police officers in communities across Wisconsin.

As Milwaukee County Executive, Walker opposed the 2007-09 Wisconsin state budget which expanded health care access to cover all children and pregnant mothers. In a speech to a conservative pro-corporate tax loopholes organization Walker said, “If you’re going to hold the line on taxes, the only way to do it is to hold the line on spending.” [Green Bay Press-Gazette, 6/28/07]

Walker was also a vocal opponent of the 2009-11 Wisconsin state budget, which expanded health care access to 54,000 childless, low-income adults. In a controversial fundraising letter that touted his refusal to take federal Recovery Act Funds (a pledge he has backed-down on), he railed against the state budget and wrote, “The problem is an insatiable appetite for government spending.” [Walker Fundraising Letter, 3/5/09]

BadgerCare programs assist not only children, but also pregnant mothers and childless adults, many of whom have jobs, but who do not receive employer-provided health insurance. BadgerCare Plus Core, which began in 2009, has been so popular that a waiting list is now in place. Low-income, childless adults earning less than 200% of the federal poverty line ($21,660 single, $29,140 for married couple) may be eligible under the plan.

“Scott Walker’s inane plan to push people off of BadgerCare programs while they are still trying to find jobs in wake of the nation’s economic collapse is only going to increase our long-term health care costs,” said Ross.

“But why would Scott Walker care? He’s got a $120,000 a year salary, taxpayer-financed health care and a lovely house with a big pool to enjoy.”

Walker inherited the successful Milwaukee County General Assistance Medical Program, which helped approximately 30,000 county residents not qualifying for Medicaid or could not afford private health insurance. GAMP was under threat from Walker and he proposed in 2005 to wipe funding out for it entirely. GAMP has been folded into the BadgerCare Core Plus program, where it is currently protected from Walker cuts. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 8/25/05]

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