State Medicaid enrollment soaring

The Wisconson State Journal reports:

“Medicaid enrollment has soared more in Wisconsin than in any other state but Arizona in recent years, putting pressure on the state budget, according to a report released today by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.

“State leaders need to confront these challenges,” said the report, adding “any new money for Medicaid will likely come at the expense of other state programs, most notably education and property tax relief.”

Gov. Scott Walker plans to release his budget for the next two years Tuesday. His budget repair bill for this year, released this month but stalled by protests, gives his administration new powers to reshape the program.

Medicaid, the state-federal health plan for the poor, covers 1.2 million people in Wisconsin, or one in five residents. The program faces a $1.8 billion state budget deficit over the next two years. It includes BadgerCare Plus, Family Care and SeniorCare, among other services.

From 2001 to 2009, participation increased an average of 8.2 percent a year, more than twice the national average and higher than in all states but Arizona, which saw a spike of 8.9 percent a year.

State policy changes, along with population growth and the recession, fueled the growth, the report said.

“Wisconsin has been a national leader in insuring its residents,” the report said. “However, rising (Medicaid) costs and enrollment are putting pressure on both public budgets and private health sectors.””