Dane County looks to stop forcing unwed fathers to repay Medicaid birth costs from before 2020

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Dane County officials are looking to stop making unwed fathers repay Medicaid for the cost of their children’s births in cases before 2020.

The county already ended the policy for births after 2020, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. The county budget that passed in November calls for asking the state to drop cases from prior to 2020. That could lead to expunging 3,000 cases, according to the county.

Dane County collected $2.2 million in repayments in 2020, up from $1.2 million in 2019 as the county intercepted COVID-19 pandemic stimulus checks and unemployment bonuses, according to ABC for Health, a Madison-based nonprofit law firm that helps people find health care.

Advocates who want officials to stop chasing money from unwed fathers say the stress on parents can lead to birth problems, particularly in Black and Indigenous families. Others argue the repayments help keep Medicaid solvent and help parents learn responsibility.

About half of Wisconsin’s nearly 60,000 annual births are covered by Medicaid, a joint state-federal health care program. Two-thirds of those births occurred among unmarried people in 2020, according to a report last year from ABC for Health.

Milwaukee County’s 2024 budget calls for ending birth cost recovery as well. That spending plan passed in November.


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