Weather Forecast


County voters to weigh in on health care issue

When they go to the polls Nov. 4 to elect new state and federal officers, St. Croix County residents will also be asked their opinion of Wisconsin’s decision not to accept enhanced federal funds for BadgerCare.

The enabling resolution adopted by the St. Croix County Board last week says Wisconsin hasn’t taken advantage of billions of new federal Medicaid money that would improve the state’s BadgerCare program and help 84,000 people.

The resolution says the federal funds would bring an estimated $24.5 million into the local economy by 2021 and would help an additional 848 parents and childless adults in St. Croix County who use BadgerCare.

This is the text of the referendum: “Shall the next State Legislature accept available federal funds for BadgerCare to ensure that thousands of Wisconsin citizens have access to quality and affordable health coverage?”

The referendum asks the Legislature and governor to reconsider the decision not to accept those Medicaid funds, said Supervisor Chris Babbitt, who chairs the Health and Human Services Board.

He said committee members realize this is a political issue but feel it is “a very real day-to-day concern for those individuals who are uninsured currently in our health care system.”

According to Citizen Action of Wisconsin, at this point the referendum will be on the November ballot in nine other counties: Bayfield, La Crosse, Eau Claire, Dunn, Lincoln, Clark, Outagamie, Dane and Milwaukee.

Putting the referendum on the ballot allows St. Croix residents to say how they feel about whether Wisconsin should accept the federal funds, said HHS Director Fred Johnson.

He said the change in income limits moved about 1,000 St. Croix County residents off BadgerCare. Johnson said he has no information yet on how many of those low income people are getting insurance through the Obamacare health exchanges.

County Board members should vote against putting this wording on the ballot, said Supervisor Steve Nielsen, Hudson.

“The biggest and most obvious reason is we’re only telling the voters half the truth,” said Nielsen. He said staying on Medicaid means giving up subsidized private-sector insurance that can be accessed through the exchange.

Also, he said, Medicare and Medicaid are already deeply in debt, and there’s no guarantee that Congress will authorize funding next year.

“There’s no guarantees involved here at all, and we should make sure the public is aware of that before we ask them to vote,” said Nielsen.

Johnson said the numbers in the resolution came from the state’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau, but he wasn’t sure if the $24.5 million applied to just St. Croix County or to the area.

“Not accepting the Medicare funds has really hurt St. Croix County and has really hurt this state,” said Supervisor Travis Schachtner, Somerset. He said Wisconsin took a step in the wrong direction by not accepting the money.

“This resolution gets the voice of the people behind it,” Schachtner said.

This puts the issue before the people and does not dictate how they should vote, agreed Babbitt.

Supervisor Roy Sjoberg, Hudson, said several agencies, including the Wisconsin Chapter of the American College of Physicians have asked the state to change its position.

The resolution was adopted 14-2 with only Nielsen and Supervisor Andy Brinkman voting no.

Judy Wiff

Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.

(715) 426-1049