Republicans immediately end Gov. Evers special session to expand BadgerCare

NOW: Republicans immediately end Gov. Evers special session to expand BadgerCare

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Republicans in the Legislature within seconds immediately put an end to Gov. Tony Evers special session on BadgerCare expansion Tuesday, May 25, gaveling in and adjourning without any votes or debate.

The State Senate ended their session in less than 10 seconds, the Assembly was in for about 40 seconds with both chambers swiftly rejecting the governor's call to expand BadgerCare eligibility. 

The move was expected as GOP leaders have long opposed expanding the BadgerCare Plus program. The rejection means the state will lose out on $1.6 billion in federal aid. Gov. Evers slammed Republicans decision calling it a missed opportunity. 

"Am I disappointed, hell yes," Evers said during an event in Green Bay. "This was a once in a lifetime opportunity that we could have had to invest in economic development across our state at a time we need it the most."

Gov. Evers and Democrats have rallied to expand eligibility for Medicaid for years which would provide health insurance to an additional 90,000 Wisconsinites. Wisconsin is now one of 12 states that have refused to accept federal funding to expand Medicaid.

"Why should all of neighboring states have something that benefits their constituents and yet we deny our own residents that same kind of investment," said Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh). 

On Tuesday, top Republicans sent Gov. Evers a letter explaining their rejection to his plan claiming "expanding the program would simply lead to more people on a taxpayer funded government program and more expensive private plans for others," Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, Rep. Mark Born and Sen. Howard Marklein wrote in the letter. 

The governor attempted to raise the stakes by offering to use a portion of the influx of funds on projects Republican lawmakers support, but many argued Evers could use federal coronavirus relief funding instead of expanding Medicaid.

"[Evers] has billions of dollars sitting there in federal money that he doesn’t know what to do with," said Senate President Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield).

Kapenga also expressed he has "grave concerns" with the amount of money the federal government is distributing during the pandemic.

Evers proposed paying for more than 50 projects including $100 million towards replacing lead pipes, $100 million for fixing roads and bridges and $200 to expand broadband.

"Can you imagine not taking $1.6 billion?" Hintz said. "It's not just about recovery, it's about opportunity." 

The latest polling shows 70% of Wisconsinites support accepting federal funding for Medicaid expansion, according to a Marquette University Law School Poll.

GOP leaders have said they oppose the plan because low-income individuals who don’t qualify for BadgerCare Plus can get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

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