February 20, 2013

Milwaukee Courier

Legislatively Speaking: Strengthening BadgerCare, not on Walker's List

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act commonly called Obamacare or the ACA was signed into law in March of 2010 and aimed to reduce the health costs for both patients and providers, introduced new rules in order to protect citizens from unfair rate hikes, and increased coverage for all Americans.

The ACA included provisions to increase the number of individuals eligible for Medicaid care. Under this expansion of the program, Wisconsin would receive nearly 4.4 billion dollars to increase enrollment and cover health care costs. Currently the federal government covers 60% of Medicaid costs and the state contributes 40%. Under this plan the federal government would pay 100% of costs for 3 years, gradually shifting spending to 90%, with the state paying 10%, saving Wisconsin taxpayer money.

On February 13th, Governor Scott Walker unveiled his administrations plan to update Wisconsin’s own Medicaid program BadgerCare.  Instead of accepting the federal dollars which would have increased the number eligible for Medicaid by some estimates around 175,000 (at nearly no cost to Wisconsin taxpayers!), Walker chose to reject the full Medicaid expansion and has decided to instead to cut 87,000 low income recipients of BadgerCare and only opening spots for 82,000 childless adults, effectively increasing the number of uninsured people in Wisconsin.

According to the Governor’s proposed plan, the Medicaid income rate would be lowered from 200% of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) to 100%. This means that only individuals earning $11,490 and couples earning $15,510 a year would be eligible for BadgerCare. Those who make more than that annually would be required to find health care in the newly created Health Insurance exchange.  The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates that around 87,000 people will be dropped from Medicaid following this change and would need to find new health insurance. The Governor’s plan also removes a cap that would allow 82,000 people who currently do not qualify for Medicaid to become eligible under the proposed plan. The net effect is 5,000 less folks who struggle to pay bills each month would be forced to find healthcare elsewhere.

Governor Walker argues that his plan, while it covers substantially fewer number uninsured people than the ACA mandate would, reduces the number of people dependent on government healthcare and eases the burden placed upon tax payers. Early estimates done by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau however suggest that just the opposite is true. The nonpartisan organization notes that over the next seven years the state could save 250 million dollars by excepting federal funds.

When the Governors plan goes into effect with January 1st, 2014 premiums for individuals earning $11,490 would be around $19 a month and for families of four earning $23550 would be around $39 a month.

If you need more information, or are curious if you will be covered under the new changes, please visit the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website at:

http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/badgercareplus/

Or the Access homepage which provides answers to frequently asked questions and includes eligibility requirements and benefit information at:

https://access.wisconsin.gov/

Or call BadgerCare member services at 1-800-362-3002 to speak with someone directly.

Feel free to contact my office with any questions, comments, or concerns about the changing healthcare system, and we will do everything we can to help walk you through the new process. As always I am here to serve!