MADISON, Wis. – State Rep. Peter Barca fired off a press release Wednesday ripping Gov. Scott Walker for his “failure” to take all of that “free” federal Medicaid money a few years back.

AP file photo

THIS IS WHAT SOCIALISM LOOKS LIKE: Here’s a spoiler alert: Medicaid expansion is paid for by taxpayers somewhere.

Barca’s a politician. It’s what he does. And as the Assembly minority leader of a diminished Democratic Party facing irrelevancy, outrage-laden press releases is about all he can do.

The Kenosha Democrat quotes a Legislative Fiscal Bureau report (completed at his request) that finds Walker’s refusing to drag the state into the costly Obama-led Medicaid expansion campaign will “cost Wisconsin taxpayers” nearly $700 million by the end of this budget cycle. By June 30, 2020, “this failure” will cost Wisconsin more than $1 billion, according to the press release.

“It makes little sense to leave federal money on the table as this puts Wisconsin taxpayers on the hook to make up the difference,” Barca barked.

Of course, what the liberal lawmaker leaves out – as many liberals are wont to do – is the fact that the money didn’t just magically appear on the table. It was taken from taxpayers everywhere. And taxpayers in the 32 states that took the Medicaid bribe are finding out they are on the hook for an increasing share of the expansion.

But beyond the money is the bigger battle of ideas: The left’s fervent belief in the ever-expanding role of government and the right’s maxim that the government which governs best is that which governs least.

Ultimately, it’s a battle between self-governance and dependency democracy.

As an Investor Business Daily editorial late last year put it, “Obamacare made an offer few states could refuse: Expand Medicaid eligibility to 138 percent of poverty – including able-bodied childless adults – and the federal government will cover 100 percent of the costs for three years.” Otherwise, stick with the 58 percent federal share of Medicaid coverage, big federal said, and go it alone, Wisconsin.

Walker said, thanks but no thanks. His administration turned down the money and opted to prioritize state spending to expand Wisconsin’s Medicaid program, known as BadgerCare Plus. Tom Evenson, the governor’s spokesman, says the decision had paid off.

“Our state ranks as one of the best states in the nation for health care coverage, and we did it here without taking the Obamacare expansion,” Evenson wrote in an email. “Thanks to Governor Walker’s reforms, for the first time everyone is covered with insurance and our taxpayers did not have to buy into the uncertainty (that) surrounds Obamacare.”

Walker’s recommendation, approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature, expanded BadgerCare eligibility for childless adults below the poverty level and cut in half the income eligibility ceiling for parents – from the previous cap of 200 percent of the federal poverty level. The federal plan demanded an income threshold of at least 138 percent of FPL.

Adults above the fixed poverty levels still are eligible for the expansive federal subsidies baked into the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), which has turned out to be much less affordable than advertised.

Walker argued the Obamacare Medicaid offer was one Wisconsin should refuse because, like so many other federally mandated programs, the Medicaid expansion would be unsustainable. States taking the Medicaid bribe are now learning the residual costs of “free money.”

Beginning this year, receiving states will have to kick in 5 percent of the costs for the new Medicaid enrollees. In coming years, it will be 10 percent. Walker and fellow conservatives jaded by the bad history of unfunded federal mandates are betting it will eventually be much more. Those states are poised to see their Medicaid costs climb by nearly 6 percent this year, compared with 4 percent for Wisconsin and the other states that said no, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

At least eight of the expansion states are pushing new taxes and fees on insurance providers to cover those costs, according to the Kaiser Foundation. Sock it to the wealthy insurance companies, right? Not so much. Those costs are either passed on to consumers or they will no longer be countenanced by insurers that are escaping the untenable government-influenced markets. Other states plan to tap into their general funds to cover the rising costs. Those funds, of course, are filled by taxpayers.

“In other words, states that expanded Medicaid will either have to boost health costs, raise taxes or cut spending to cover this ObamaCare ‘freebie.’ Given that Medicaid is already swamping state budgets, this will not be good news,” the Investor Business Daily editorial asserted.

Indeed. Take a look at Wisconsin’s neighbor, which saw its health care insurance markets on the verge of collapse.

“When the Obamacare Medicaid expansion was offered, Governor Walker believed it would be unsustainable in the future, and that if Wisconsin had bought into the program it would be risky for taxpayers,” said Evenson, Walker’s spokesman. “What transpired in Minnesota suggests we were right. Insurers are leaving Minnesota’s exchange and it will now cost Minnesota taxpayers $310 million to help offset the massive increase in premiums to those who had enrolled.”

Barca is correct in saying that Wisconsin could grab a total of $2.7 billion by 2019, had it fully expanded BadgerCare. And, as the author of the fiscal bureau report notes, even when the federal coverage drops from 100 percent to 90 percent, 90 is still better than the current 58 percent.

But Barca paints his picture without a background, that the federal money Wisconsin has “missed out” on is cash grabbed from taxpayers of every state. And the hundreds of billions spent is only exacerbating a $20 trillion U.S. debt.

Last year the Congressional Budget Office raised its 10-year cost projection for the Medicaid expansion by $136 billion. Somebody is paying for that.

As Walker noted ad nauseam during the last presidential campaign cycle, liberals like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama measure success on how many people are dependent on the government and the tax dollars that keep it going.

“There’s a reason we celebrate July 4 instead of April 15,” Walker likes to say, comparing Independence Day with Tax Day.

While the sentiment seems a disconnect from Wisconsin’s reliance on myriad federal program subsidies of all kinds (Obamacare included), the philosophy is as right as rain.

“In America, we celebrate independence from government, not dependence on it,” Walker has said. “It’s time for government to get out of the way.”

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Commentary: Refusing Medicaid expansion frustrates dependency democracy crowd