Wisconsin Assembly Votes to Delay Removing Poor From BadgerCare

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 26: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the podium ahead of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 26, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. The RNC is scheduled to convene on August 27 and will hold its first full-day session on August 28 as Tropical Storm Isaac threatens disruptions due to its proximity to the Florida peninsula.
National Journal
Clara Ritger
Dec. 4, 2013, 9:40 a.m.

The Wis­con­sin state As­sembly voted Wed­nes­day to keep 72,000 res­id­ents from be­ing taken off the state’s health-cov­er­age plan for its low-in­come res­id­ents.

If the meas­ure passes the state Sen­ate, Wis­con­sin­ites earn­ing more than 100 per­cent of the fed­er­al poverty line will be shif­ted off Badger­Care and in­to the Obama­care ex­change to pur­chase in­sur­ance on April 1. That trans­ition is a crit­ic­al three-month delay from Jan. 1 be­cause of the tu­mul­tu­ous rol­lout of Health­Care.gov, Re­pub­lic­an Gov. Scott Walk­er says. In Oc­to­ber, Wis­con­sin had only 877 en­rollees.

The delay also post­pones cov­er­age for even more of the state’s poor. An es­tim­ated 83,000 res­id­ents liv­ing be­low the fed­er­al poverty line who would be­come newly eli­gible for the pro­gram Jan. 1 could also have to wait the three months. Demo­crats sent let­ters protest­ing the plan.

“You in­tend to pay for the cost of ex­tend­ing Medi­caid/Badger­Care to these low-in­come Wis­con­sin cit­izens by delay­ing cov­er­age to even poorer Wis­con­sin cit­izens by the same three months,” wrote Demo­crat­ic state Sen. Tim Cul­len in a let­ter to Walk­er. “Put simply, you pro­pose to pay to cov­er the second-low­est in­come group by delay­ing cov­er­age to the very poorest Wis­con­sin cit­izens who have no cov­er­age today.”

Be­cause the delay keeps some of the poorest off the state’s rolls, tax­pay­ers will save roughly $23 mil­lion if the deal is ap­proved, the state’s non­par­tis­an budget of­fice es­tim­ates. 

Badger­Care of­fers in­sur­ance to Wis­con­sin­ites whose em­ploy­ers do not provide it and whose in­come is too high to qual­i­fy for Medi­caid. The pro­gram cur­rently cov­ers people earn­ing up to 200 per­cent of the fed­er­al poverty line, but it will be rolled back to 100 per­cent of the fed­er­al poverty line, the least amount Amer­ic­ans can earn to qual­i­fy for premi­um tax cred­its on the ex­change.

Walk­er re­jec­ted fed­er­al money for Medi­caid ex­pan­sion, one of 25 Re­pub­lic­an U.S. gov­ernors to do so. He has said he does not be­lieve the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment will fol­low through on its prom­ise to cov­er the costs of ex­pan­sion.

He de­fends the delay of the Badger­Care over­haul with a sim­il­ar lo­gic.

“People who are tak­ing the Medi­caid ex­pan­sion are de­pend­ing on the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment liv­ing up to their com­mit­ment, a fed­er­al gov­ern­ment that can’t even get a web­site up and go­ing,” Walk­er said last month.

Since Walk­er’s com­ments and the un­veil­ing of his pro­pos­al, the Health and Hu­man Ser­vices De­part­ment has made hun­dreds of fixes to Health­Care.gov. On Sunday, it an­nounced that it met its goal to make the on­line fed­er­al ex­change a smooth ex­per­i­ence for “the vast ma­jor­ity of users.” On Wed­nes­day, re­ports leaked that 29,000 people had signed up for cov­er­age on the first two days of Decem­ber.

Con­sumers have un­til Dec. 23 to sign up for ex­change cov­er­age that be­gins Jan. 1.

If the Re­pub­lic­an-con­trolled Le­gis­lature ap­proves the delay, however, cur­rent Badger­Care re­cip­i­ents would be covered by the pro­gram through March, giv­ing them more time to shop for in­sur­ance, but for­cing oth­er low-in­come Wis­con­sin­ites to wait longer for cov­er­age.

The Wis­con­sin state Sen­ate is ex­pec­ted to take up the meas­ure Dec. 19.

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