How high? Up to 99 percent higher than in its neighbor (and longtime rival in all things) Minnesota.
Robert Kraig, the executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, said a report he co-authored shows that “rates are much higher in Wisconsin than in Minnesota, despite having similar geographies and similar underlying medical costs.”Wisconsin is one of the more than two dozen states whose governors or legislators have blocked federally funded Medicaid expansion.
Kraig said Wisconsin insurance exchange premiums for a single person are an average of 79 percent to 99 percent higher than premiums in Minnesota, before tax credits are applied. He said the average Wisconsinite will pay $1,800 more annually for health care.
As part of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government is assisting states with expanding Medicaid coverage to 133 percent of the federal poverty line, closing the gap between those who qualify for traditional Medicaid coverage and those who can buy health insurance on the state exchanges. Many states, including Minnesota, have accepted the expansion as a no-brainer.
But as part of the Supreme Court’s decision last June, states cannot be required to accept these federal funds, leading many governors like Texas Gov. Perry, Virginia’s Bob McDonnell, and Wisconsin’s Walker to “stand up to Obamacare” by saying no to these funds.
So in states like Wisconsin, the coverage gap persists, pushing about 92,000 low-income Wisconsinites onto the health exchanges. Low-income people, on average, have more medical needs, so adding thousands of them to the exchange pool leads to higher premiums -- for everyone.
In Milwaukee, average cost of health insurance is 112 percent higher than Minnesota’s average; in La Crosse, WI, it’s 136 percent higher. Yikes.
It’s not just the Medicaid expansion. Under Gov. Walker, Wisconsin’s Office of the Commissioner of Insurance has been very laissez-faire about challenging insurance rates, while Minnesota has “exercised a rigorous rate of review,” according to the Cap Times. Kraig’s study found that such reviews have lowered Minnesota’s rates by up to 37 percent. “We have taken in Wisconsin a clearinghouse approach,” Kraig said, “The insurance company says, ‘Here’s our rate in the exchange’ and the state of Wisconsin says ,’OK.’”
Back to Scott Walker. Not only is Walker up for reelection next year, he’s also laying groundwork for a presidential campaign. Accepting Medicaid expansion through Obamacare would be an anathema to Walker’s Tea Party base and his corporate backers; he can’t say that out loud, which is why his explanation for rejecting the funds has been vague and elusive.
By rejecting Medicaid for ideological and political reasons, Walker is continuing the pattern he’s held since taking office: it doesn’t matter if it makes life worse for Wisconsinites, it only matters that he holds onto power.