Lots of Nothing to Cheer About

risingUnemployment.jpgAlthough Wisconsin's unemployment rate has fallen (to 6.5%), part of the decline seems to be the result of a shrinking labor pool. And the number of new unemployment claims, as reported by the US Department of Labor for the week of December 7, 2013, was the highest in the nation!

The Cap Times reported an official explanation: "Officials with the state Department of Workforce Development explain that Wisconsin historically sees a seasonal increase in unemployment claims around Thanksgiving -- in part because of deer hunting...." But of course other states also have deer hunting seasons, rendering the "explanation" curious at best. Perhaps even downright ridiculous.

But the increase in new unemployment claims was not the only unhappy outcome of Governor Walker's policies. His decision to refuse to expand Medicaid under the terms of the Affordable Care Act is going to cost Wisconsin taxpayers a bundle. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel finds that Iowa's path is quite similar in many ways to the path Wisconsin is taking, except that Iowa's strategy is going to cost its citizens "a fraction" of what Wisconsin's strategy will be costing us.

Here are the key paragraphs in the Journal Sentinel story:

The broad structure of Iowa's plan — such as relying more on private health plans and less on the traditional Medicaid program — is similar to the approach developed by Walker and approved by the Legislature to increase the number of people with health insurance.

But in Iowa, the federal government is paying the full cost for the first three years of expanding its Medicaid program to cover all adults. The federal share will eventually decline to 90% of the cost.

In contrast, Wisconsin is paying 40%, and the federal government paying the other 60%.

The difference could work out to several hundred million dollars in additional spending for Wisconsin taxpayers over the next decade.

And the explanation for the decision to forgo hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds?
The Walker administration and Republican state legislators contend that the federal dollars allocated through the Affordable Care Act will be reduced in future years, potentially saddling states with a larger share of the cost of expanding their Medicaid programs.
So Wisconsin citizens are paying federal income taxes and medicare taxes, but these revenues are all flowing to other states because the Republicans in our state are afraid that at some point in the future, federal support for the program might be reduced.
Meanwhile, the "solution" Wisconsin adopted means that "Walker's plan still relies on the federal government paying 60% of the cost of expanding the Medicaid program, and whether that money will be available long-term is not guaranteed, either."
It's hard to understand why anyone would think four more years of this sort of logic would be a good thing.

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