Hello, neighbors. The State Legislature is adjourned until January, 2013 when all the legislators elected in the November 6, 2012 general elections are sworn into office. Despite the legislature being out of session, there are still important issues moving forward that impact tens of thousands of people, including BadgerCare Plus.
BadgerCare Plus is Wisconsin's Medicaid program to provide health insurance for uninsured families and childless adults. BadgerCare Plus currently provides critical health care for 751,000 individuals, including 471,000 children. Prior to this session, the legislature had the authority to propose modifications to the program and submit them to the Federal government, who has the ultimate say. In Governor Walker’s budget, this legislative authority was transferred to him. Currently, Governor Walker’s political appointee from the Heritage Foundation, Dennis Smith, has the sole power to propose changes to the BadgerCare Plus program.
Governor Walker’s original BadgerCare Plus reductions would have affected BadgerCare Plus coverage for more than 300,000 Wisconsinites. His plan would have caused more than 64,000 Wisconsinites, including over 29,000 children, to lose their BadgerCare Plus coverage. Since many of Governor Walker’s proposed changes conflicted with the federal health care reform law, which is known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), he was forced by the Obama Administration to abandoned most of his original plans.
The following changes were approved by the federal government and will be effective July 1, 2012:
- Requiring premiums for adults in BadgerCare Plus with incomes between 133% and 150% of the federal poverty level (whereas premiums currently start at 150% of FPL);
- Increasing premiums for non-pregnant, non-disabled adults over 150% of FPL;
- Dropping adults for a year, rather than six months, if they fail to make a premium payment on time;
- Ending BadgerCare Plus coverage for adults if they have access to employer-sponsored insurance and their premium would cost less than 9.5% of family income (regardless of how high the deductibles and co-pays are for that coverage);
- Ending eligibility of the spouse of an employee who has an offer of employer coverage, even if inclusion of the spouse would raise the premium above the 9.5% family income standard; and
- Ending retroactive eligibility for parents and caretaker relatives in families with income above 133% of the poverty level.
As a result of these changes, approximately 17,000 adults will lose their BadgerCare Plus coverage.
In addition, Governor Walker is still seeking federal approval of his proposal to create a plan with much higher co-pays and more limited benefits, which would cover families with incomes over 100% of the poverty level. If approved, Governor Walker’s plan would adversely affect more than 300,000 BadgerCare Plus participants.
I believe that the ability of a society to be healthy and to thrive is dependent upon its inhabitants being healthy and having access to quality, affordable health care. I will continue to advocate for comprehensive health care coverage through the BadgerCare Plus program, against Governor Walker’s pending proposals for further cuts, and for health care reform which guarantees that all individuals have access to health care.