Jerry Ann Hamilton, president of the Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP, echoed concerns raised by state legislators over a change to the BadgerCare program in Southeast Wisconsin in an open letter to Governor Doyle on Wednesday.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) has decided to end existing contracts with health care firms involved in the BadgerCare program in Southeast Wisconsin by 2010.
People currently enrolled in the program would be contacted by the state to select a new HMO. If enrollees cannot be reached, they would be automatically assigned to the health care firm with the lowest costs.
In her letter to Governor Doyle, Hamilton called the change “potentially devastating.”
“People enrolled in BadgerCare would be contacted using state and county lists which can be notoriously out of date, especially given the mobility of many inner-city residents.”
Hamilton added that the change could mean many African Americans “losing their personal doctors, causing substantial disruptions to their health care.”
The letter is the latest in a line of concerns raised by Milwaukee legislators, including State Representatives Leon Young and Barbara Toles, State Senator Spencer Coggs and State Senator Lena Taylor, who called the proposal “troubling” in a statement issued last week.
“It is imperative that we don’t impose any additional impediments to health care access” for vulnerable residents, Rep. Young said.
DHS Secretary Karen Timberlake admitted the changes were likely to cause some disruptions in an interview with the Courier last week, but said it was important to help bring down costs and increase accountability among participating firms.
But in her letter, Hamilton said while she recognizes “the State of Wisconsin is interested in improving the quality of care and costs associated with the BadgerCare program, the change currently proposed… would have dramatic, negative consequences for many African Americans in the Milwaukee area.”
Citizens who are concerned should call the NAACP’s office at 414/562-1000.