02/22/2013 01:27 pm ET Updated Feb 22, 2013

Tammy Baldwin: Scott Walker 'Driven By Politics' In Rejecting Medicaid Expansion

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) is going after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) for rejecting the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medcaid, saying he put politics over the best interests of Wisconsinites.

"I am disappointed that your decisions regarding implementation of the ACA are being driven by politics instead of progress for our state," Baldwin wrote in a letter to Walker on Thursday.

"In November 2012, you chose not to establish a state-run insurance marketplace which would have provided Wisconsin families and businesses more choices for quality coverage. Now, by turning down the ACA's Medicaid expansion in your state budget, you have passed up another opportunity to improve health coverage and bring new jobs to our state," she added.

Walker has been one of President Barack Obama's loudest critics on health care. Last week, he announced that he was rejecting the federal government's Medicaid expansion, which is intended to insure many low-income individuals who currently don't qualify for the federal program.

The federal government would cover the full cost of the expansion through 2016, and gradually drop down to paying 90 percent -- with the states picking up the rest of the tab -- by 2020.

According to the state legislature's nonpartisan Fiscal Bureau, accepting the federal Medicaid expansion would have saved Wisconsin $66 million for those first three years.

Walker has instead put forward a plan that, according to the Wisconsin State Journal, "involves lifting an enrollment cap on Medicaid programs for childless adults, tightening income eligibility for state residents able to use Medicaid programs, and bumping thousands of people from such programs to federal government-run health care exchanges where they can buy private insurance."

His office did not return a request for comment on Baldwin's letter.

While many Republican governors have followed Walker's path and rejected the Medicaid expansion, seven others -- including health care reform critics like Rick Scott in Florida -- have signed on, giving a boost to the president's efforts to insure more than 30 million Americans.

Baldwin also stated her concerns in late January at a health care conference sponsored by Families USA, which backs the Affordable Care Act.

"Medicaid expansion is about protecting the most vulnerable Americans at the most vulnerable moments in their lives," she said. "Illness and accident can befall anyone. But it shouldn't mean bankruptcy or financial ruin. Whether we can successfully put pressure on Republican governors to follow through with expanding Medicaid will go a long way toward determining whether this law lives up to that principle."

It is now up to the state legislature, which is controlled by Republicans, to determine which way Wisconsin goes.

"It is my hope that the Legislature, and your Administration, keeps my concerns in mind and accepts my offer to join me in putting progress for our state ahead of politics," Baldwin said in her letter. "Given the impact on Wisconsin families and the state budget, I hope that you will reconsider your decision to reject the expansion of Medicaid in Wisconsin."



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