07.12.21

Senators Baldwin, Reverend Warnock, Ossoff Introduce New Legislation to Expand Quality, Affordable Health Care Coverage

The Medicaid Saves Lives Act would allow Americans in non-expansion states like Wisconsin to access affordable health care coverage 

Legislation endorsed by leading Wisconsin health care organizations

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA), and Jon Ossoff (D-GA) introduced new legislation to provide critical health care coverage to more than four million Americans who had previously been denied access to affordable health insurance because of where they live. 

The Medicaid Saves Lives Act would provide health insurance to Americans with low incomes in the 12 states that have refused to fully expand their state Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act. By closing the coverage gap in these states and providing free and affordable health insurance to millions of Americans, the Medicaid Saves Lives Act would also provide access to preventative health care services; improve health outcomes and prevent premature deaths; lower costs for uncompensated care, which would in turn reduce hospital and provider closures; and improve economic mobility for Americans with low-incomes by enabling them to work. 

In Wisconsin, the state legislature’s failure to fully expand Medicaid has kept 91,000 Wisconsinites from affordable, comprehensive coverage through BadgerCare. This obstruction has also meant the refusal of $1.6 billion in federal funding. Medicaid expansion works: research has found that Medicaid expansion contributes to reduced mortality rates overall, including deaths from different types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and liver disease. And, expansion has been linked to better access to care in rural areas and positive economic outcomes for states and communities. The Medicaid Saves Lives Act would help ensure that all Americans with low incomes are able to access more comprehensive, affordable health coverage, even if they live in a state that has refused to expand Medicaid for political reasons at the cost of residents’ health and taxpayer dollars.  

“For nearly a decade in Wisconsin, Republicans have refused to accept a federal investment in BadgerCare that would make 91,000 Wisconsinites eligible for high quality health care. Right now, they are denying the quality coverage that BadgerCare provides to someone working and only making $13,000 a year. That’s just wrong,” said Senator Baldwin. “Our legislation will open the door to those who have been shut out and expand access to affordable health care, including preventive care, that people want and need. We are also once again providing another strong incentive for Wisconsin Republicans to finally do the right thing and accept a federal investment that will save taxpayers money, expand coverage, and improve health outcomes in Wisconsin. I look forward to working in the Senate to pass this legislation and overcome the obstruction we have faced for far too long.”

The Medicaid Saves Lives Act would direct the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to create and standup a federal Medicaid look-alike program, which would provide the same full, essential benefits of Medicaid, but run and administered at the federal level. This would allow all individuals in non-expansion states who make up to 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), including many individuals who are currently enrolled in marketplaces plans under the Affordable Care Act, to qualify for full Medicaid benefits and more affordable, comprehensive coverage. The legislation would also add to the significant financial incentives included in the American Rescue Plan for states to expand Medicaid, giving these states an additional and extended federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) increase to expand their state Medicaid programs. Importantly, since Congress already appropriated funding for Medicaid expansion in the Affordable Care Act, the federal program in the Medicaid Saves Lives Act has already been funded once and requires no additional offsets.

“Community Health Centers remain dedicated to ensuring that all Wisconsinites have access to high quality, affordable care that helps individuals reach their full health potential. A strong and sustainable Medicaid infrastructure is critical in advancing that goal,” said Stephanie Harrison, Executive Director, Wisconsin Primary Health Care Association (WPHCA). “We recognize Senator Baldwin’s continued leadership in championing an enduring health care safety net for all Wisconsinites, especially as over half of Wisconsin’s Community Health Center patients are Medicaid enrollees. This proposal invests in Wisconsinites by creating new options for individuals to access affordable care, and advancing our nation’s commitment to high-quality, affordable health outcomes.”  

“All Wisconsinites, especially those enduring cycles of poverty and experiencing health disparities and inequities, must have access to affordable, comprehensive, quality health insurance,” said Kids Forward CEO Michele Mackey. “Yet, despite substantial federal financial incentives and hundreds of millions in state savings, Wisconsin lawmakers have been unwilling to help the 91,000 low-wage workers, more than half of whom are parents, who could be covered by expanding BadgerCare. We appreciate Senators Baldwin, Warnock, and Ossoff for introducing the Medicaid Saves Lives Act, which will offer health quality coverage directly to Wisconsinites who, through the choices of our legislature, are stuck without access to affordable health care.” 

"We all want the same thing - to live healthy, happy lives in strong communities. But for tens of thousands of Wisconsinites, that's not possible because they don't have high quality, affordable health care," said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. "For the second time in a row, the Wisconsin State Legislature has failed to pass BadgerCare Expansion in the biennial state budget, leaving over 90,000 Wisconsinites without coverage they can afford to use. Citizen Action of Wisconsin and our members applaud and thank Senator Tammy Baldwin for offering a creative solution to address the health care affordability gap in Wisconsin."

"In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Texas v. California upholding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) once again, it is crucial that Wisconsin fully embrace the benefits of this landmark legislation,”  said Protect Our Care Wisconsin State Director Joe Zepecki. “Building on the success of the ACA to lower health care costs and expand coverage should start with finally catching up to the common sense, fiscally prudent decision made by states across the country to expand their Medicaid programs. In the meantime, this innovative approach will ensure that more Wisconsinites can access the health care they need.  Protect Our Care Wisconsin is enormously grateful for the leadership Sen. Baldwin and her colleagues are showing on this issue."

"We need everyone to 'mind the gap' in Wisconsin. While GOP legislators refuse to recognize the care and affordability gap in our state, over 91,000 Wisconsinites are prohibited from securing high quality, comprehensive health care coverage they can afford," said Sara Finger, Founder & Executive Director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health. "To make our communities whole following the pandemic, we must close this persistent gap that is devastating the health, lives and economic security of Wisconsin women and their families."

“I was fighting to expand Medicaid and strengthen access to affordable health care before I was elected to the Senate, and since day one I’ve been focused on what the federal government can do to provide health insurance for the nearly 275,000 Georgians who are uncovered and the 500,000 Georgians who would be eligible for Medicaid. I believe health care is a right, and the Medicaid Saves Lives Act would ensure Georgians and other Americans with low incomes who would qualify for Medicaid in most other states finally have access to the health care they need to keep our communities and economy moving forward,” said Senator Warnock. “For too long leaders in Georgia and the other non-expansion states have put politics over people, refusing to strengthen public health by expanding Medicaid even after myself and others helped to secure billions of additional dollars in the American Rescue Plan for states to do just that. That’s why Congress must pass the Medicaid Saves Lives Act to help improve health care outcomes in communities across Georgia and other similar states, and I’m going to be working hard alongside my partners in this fight, Senators Baldwin and Ossoff, to make sure the next recovery package includes this critical legislation.”   

“Our state government’s refusal to expand Medicaid has sentenced countless Georgians to needless suffering and contributed to the closure of nine Georgia hospitals in the last decade,” said Senator Ossoff. “Sen. Rev. Warnock and I secured $2 billion earlier this year for Medicaid expansion in Georgia, and now we are introducing the Medicaid Saves Lives Act to ensure all Georgians have great health care and sustain Georgia’s hospitals.”

For more information on the Medicaid Saves Lives Act and a full list of the bill’s 158 endorsers, read the fact sheet HERE.

Read the bill text HERE.