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Did Gov. Walker err in refusing to embrace key provisions of the Affordable Care Act?

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Walker was wise to turn down 'free' cash

Why didn’t the governor accept that “free” money from the federal government to expand Medicaid?

Because Scott Walker is a prudent manager. Because the federal government is an often-feckless partner. Because federal funds have more strings attached than Howdy Doody. Because profligate Washington already is in hock up to its eyebrows. And because government redistribution programs should serve only the truly indigent. That’s just for starters.

The government Rubik’s Cube of “Obamacare” offered to bankroll states that expand Medicaid to those earning 38% more than the official poverty line for the first three years. Once states are hooked, the federal share will phase down to 90%. For starters, if history is any guide.

State government has been down this road before. What’s the saying? Once burned? After Jim Doyle sopped up the last batch of “free” federal Medicaid money, Walker had to backfill the hole with $1 billion more in state funding.

“Medicaid is a quagmire,” Todd Berry of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance told me. “No one in state government can agree on exactly what the state spends from what I have been able to surmise over the years.”
Collin Roth at Right Wisconsin reports that state after state is seeing its budget roiled by surging Medicaid costs. California projects an additional $1.2 billion. Arkansas is seeing $45 million in cost overruns. (Don’t get me started on high-speed rail.)

Wisconsin is one of 24 states to say “thanks, but no thanks.” Instead of taking the federal bait (and switch), Walker chose to lift Jim Doyle’s arbitrary enrollment cap on BadgerCare and do something novel: The state would actually cover all the truly poor people. Result: 81,731 now have health insurance — a net gain of 19,000. Walker’s Department of Health is helping 63,000 Wisconsinites with incomes above poverty get on Obamacare. After all, the feds asked for the business.

Scott Walker has more reason to spurn the “free” cash: He’s no liberal. Only a progressive would rejoice that one-third of American homes now depend on means-tested government benefits.

“Nearly twice as many Americans above the poverty line as below it [are] getting anti-poverty benefits,” reports social scientist Nicholas Eberstadt in The Weekly Standard. “Evidently, the American welfare state has been defining deprivation upward.”

That’s not healthy.

David Blaska is a Madison columnist and In Business blogger. Find his blog at ibmadison.com/Blogger/Bring-It.

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