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Democrat says he talked with GOP on Medicaid deal

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 26, 2013 at 4:00 pm •  Published: February 26, 2013

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Democratic state Sen. Jon Erpenbach said Tuesday that he and some of his Republican colleagues have discussed temporarily accepting a federally funded expansion of Medicaid against the wishes of GOP Gov. Scott Walker.

Erpenbach talked about the possible deal during the Wisconsin HealthWatch conference, a meeting of policy makers, consumer advocates, and health care industry representatives. Erpenbach was on a panel of Democratic lawmakers, all of whom roundly criticized Walker's recent moves to reject key portions of the federal health care overhaul law.

Walker proposed in his state budget released last week that Wisconsin not accept a federally funded expansion of Medicaid that would expand the state's BadgerCare coverage to 175,000 adults. The expansion would be fully funded by the federal government for three years, with the state eventually paying 10 percent of the costs.

But Walker turned it down, expressing fears that the federal government wouldn't follow through on its commitment and the state would be left shouldering more of the costs. Republican legislative leaders have publicly backed Walker's plan and his rationale for taking a different path.

Walker has proposed Medicaid eligibility restrictions that would cut the program's rolls by about 5,400 people and would make roughly 224,600 state residents eligible to buy federally subsidized private coverage through the state's new health care exchange, or online marketplace.

Walker also turned down the chance to have the state create its exchange, instead deferring to the federal government.

In an interview after the panel discussion, Erpenbach declined to say which Republican senators he had spoken with about a possible Medicaid deal. But he said there were at least a couple who were unhappy with what Walker proposed and were open to alternatives, such as accepting the expansion for a limited time. Erpenbach didn't say what the time period would be.

"I know they will be looking to save some money along the way," Walker said of Republicans who may be willing to deal.

Walker's spokesman, Cullen Werwie, did not comment on the possible deal Erpenbach discussed but reiterated the governor's position on his original proposal.

"Gov. Walker's plan protects state taxpayers now and into the future," Werwie said. "His plan ensures that Medicaid covers the individuals it was originally intended for, those who live in poverty."

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