Eau Claire, La Crosse among 20 counties looking for federal healthcare money

By: Joe Nelson Email
By: Joe Nelson Email

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Twenty counties in Wisconsin, including Eau Claire, Dunn and La Crosse are looking to get federal funds to support low income healthcare coverage.

Thousands of people are uninsured, because they make just enough money to not qualify for state and federal programs, or they're waiting on BadgerCare.

Some counties want Gov. Scott Walker (R) to allow them to use federal funding, to help those in need.

Rebecca Nelson of Eau Claire said she's had five surgeries while on medical leave from work over the past 16 months. She says BadgerCare has covered about 20 medications she takes daily.
But when she heads back to work, that coverage will be gone.

“I have severe spinal degeneration, fibromyalgia. Currently, I just had surgery, redo on my gastric bypass, I have blood clots,” Nelson said.

“Once I’m back to work, I’ll be making too much money to qualify under governor walker's plan. So I would lose BadgerCare.”

Maribeth Woodford with the Chippewa Valley Free Clinic said Nelson isn't alone.

“We see patients who are unemployed, seeking employment, we see those who have gone back to work but are maybe working two or three part-time jobs with no benefits offered. Some are going back to their full time jobs, but the benefits have been eliminated,” Woodford said.

She said more people would have had healthcare coverage if governor walker would have accepted federal funds to expand BadgerCare.

But Walker said he doesn't believe the federal government can fund the expansion in the future.

By rejecting that option, 20 counties in the state, including Eau Claire, Dunn and La Crosse are pushing to get the funding from the federal government individually.

“What we're asking for is that at this juncture that if the state chooses not to do what we see at a local level, the right thing to do, at least allow local control over local issues that are affecting us,” Eau Claire County Supervisor Gerald Wilkie said.

Citizen Action of Wisconsin, an advocacy group that promotes health reform, said nearly 5,000 people in Eau Claire County alone could benefit from the funding.

Everybody should be insured. We should not have anybody in our country that is going without medical coverage,” Nelson said.,

The State Department of Health Services that said the change goes against current law, which would have to be changed before counties could secure that funding.

The Republican Legislature has gone along with Walker's budget which rejects $12 billion in federal money over 10 years. Instead, Walker's plan would increase the number of BadgerCare recipients, but tighten income restrictions for others.

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