At Stevens Point Forum, Gov. Evers Seeks Public Pressure on Legislature to Expand Medicaid

By: Alan Hovorka Stevens Point Journal 5/31/19

STEVENS POINT - Gov. Tony Evers took his push for a Medicaid expansion to Stevens Point Friday where some Wisconsin residents expressed ongoing fears about health care accessibility and affordability.

"My wife takes two different types of insulin and prices have gone through the roof," Reed Pomeroy, a 69-year-old La Crosse resident, said during a town hall at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. "In my personal health, in the past four years I've had seven different surgeries. I'm all in one piece but I'll set off medical detectors."

Pomeroy was one of the people to share their health care stories during the forum held by Evers and fellow Democrats U.S. Rep. Ron Kind of La Crosse and state Rep. Katrina Shankland of Stevens Point. A couple dozen people from across the state attended.

The event came as Democrats look to drum up public pressure on state Republicans to agree with the expansion after the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee voted earlier this month to nix the expansion from the budget proposal.

The Medicaid expansion Evers wants involves using the Affordable Care Act to provide health care funding so the state's Medicaid program, BadgerCare Plus, can cover an additional 82,000 Wisconsin residents.

The expansion would free $324 million in state money as the federal government begins paying for a larger chunk of the care provided to people on BadgerCare Plus, which provides health care to low-income residents.

Republicans oppose the expansion because they believe it will increase private insurance costs and they don't think Affordable Care Act funding is sustainable.

Pomeroy is not persuaded by that concern.

"I think, sure, it's going to take states to put up some money and down the road it could be more. But, right now, it's there, why not make use of it?" Pomeroy said.

Evers pointed to polling that showed broad public support and the personal stories shared Friday in continuing to advocate for the expansion.

"Our Republican leaders in the Legislature have said it's a nonstarter," Evers said. "Well, it's a nonstarter for now. If we can get people active ... we can change minds."

Shankland said she thinks Republicans have a lack of empathy on the issue.

"They either have an allergy to health care or an ideology that needs to be rooted out by having personal conversations, telling people what happens when they have access to that care and why it is important," she said. "It's going to take neighbor-to-neighbor conversations."

John Greene, an 84-year-old Edgerton resident, said he knows how important it is to have access to coverage, especially for people with preexisting conditions. His sister-in-law was a childhood diabetic who died in her early 40s and his great-granddaughter had a stroke before she was born and will likely require care for the rest of her life.

"How many children are like that in Wisconsin for no fault of their own? Why not take this Medicaid expansion? It's a no-brainer. We've already paid the dollars to the federal government," Greene said.