By Cassandra Lans
Last week Governor Scott Walker announced that in light of what he referred to as “the failed ACA rollout by the Federal government”, he would call a special session of the Legislature to take up legislation to move forward with a three-month delay through March 31, 2014, in the implementation for people in Wisconsin moving into health care plans in the federal exchange.
Governor Walker also announced a three-month extension for the state’s high-risk insurance plan, known as the Health Insurance Risk-Sharing Plan (HIRSP), to provide a safety net during the transition for some of the state’s most vulnerable.
“In Wisconsin, we are taking action to protect our citizens from the federal government’s failure,” said Governor Walker.
“We will take care of the people of our state and not let them slip through the cracks.
This delay will give Wisconsinites additional time, but the federal government must fix the issues with its health care exchange, so our people can make a logical transition.”
In response to Walker’s announcement, State Representative Sandy Pasch (D-Shorewood) who is also Assistant Assembly Democratic Leader and Assembly Committee on Health Ranking Member immediately responded with the following statement:
“What Governor Walker failed to mention during his press conference today is that we wouldn’t need to call for a special session if he had not repeatedly refused funding to strengthen BadgerCare and develop a Wisconsin-specific health care exchange.
Making the decisions to strengthen BadgerCare coverage and develop a Wisconsin-specific exchange would be good for Wisconsin taxpayers, good for economic security, and good for the health of Wisconsin citizens.
Instead, Scott Walker is choosing to play political games with the health of Wisconsin families.
If Gov. Walker were truly invested in protecting healthcare access for Wisconsin families, he would utilize available funds to strengthen BadgerCare coverage instead of employing political grandstanding and pointing fingers to further his own national political ambitions.”
Congresswoman Gwen Moore (WI-04) also responded to Walker’s announcement with the following statement:
“I have been concerned all along about the potential ramifications of Governor Walker’s decision to cut off BadgerCare access for 77,000 individuals and families—and the state’s long, convoluted timeline for outreach to those losing their coverage.
Now that the federal system is not running smoothly, I have become even more alarmed about the Governor’s treatment of BadgerCare recipients.
I am relieved that these individuals will have more time to enroll, but extremely disappointed that they will be kicked off Badger- Care in the first place.
There was no need to have jeopardized health care coverage for this population at all.
The implementation of the Affordable Care Act has been rocky nationwide, but in Wisconsin the problems were exasperated by our governor’s decisions not to operate a state-run exchange, not to cooperate with the set-up of the federal Marketplace and not to accept federal support for BadgerCare expansion.
My urgent request is that the legislature do all it can to look out for the best interests of all Wisconsinites, including BadgerCare beneficiaries, and enact these two changes as soon as possible.
I supported the Affordable Care Act, but I also know that we must fix what is not working.
I look forward to working with both the Obama administration and Governor Walker to ensure that the law works well for the people of Wisconsin.”
Earlier this week Congressman Ron Kind (WI-03) and Congressman Mark Pocan (WI-02) also weighed in on Walker’s plan by joining with Congresswoman Moore by sending a letter to the governor expressing frustration with his most recent BadgerCare decision and urging him not to delay insurance coverage for approximately 80,000 Wisconsinites.
“Governor Walker never should have rejected federal support for Medicaid expansion in the first place.
There are federal funds available right now for low-income Wisconsinites who need health care coverage, and all that’s standing in the way is the Governor,” said Rep. Kind.
“He needs to put partisanship aside, and follow the example of many Republican governors around the country who have expanded Medicaid coverage for low-income individuals.”
“The most viable option for Governor Walker has been an option available to him all along—expand health care access in Wisconsin at no cost to the state.
We simply would not be in this situation if Governor Walker had not rejected the $4 billion in federal funds to expand Badger- Care and provide families with secure, affordable and accessible health care.
The health security of Wisconsin residents is too important to be used in a game of political football,” said Rep. Pocan.
The letter sent reads as follows:
The Honorable Scott Walker
Governor of Wisconsin
115 East Capitol
Madison, WI 53702
Dear Governor Walker,
We are writing to express our concern about the impending health insurance coverage gap that could result for the 80,000 individuals under 100% of the poverty level, as a consequence of your recent proposal to the state legislature.
Last Thursday, November 14th, we felt relief when you announced that you would allow a three-month extension of BadgerCare coverage to the approximately 77,000 low-income Wisconsinites whose coverage is due to expire on January 1, 2014.
Given the challenging rollout of the Marketplaces thus far, we agree with your assessment that these individuals—who are scheduled to be transferred to the Affordable Care Act Health Insurance Marketplaces—would benefit from a longer enrollment period.
We also support your proposal to extend the state’s high-risk insurance plan, known as the Health Insurance Risk-Sharing Plan (HIRSP), for three additional months.
However, we are gravely concerned about the fate of the 80,000 individuals under 100% of the poverty line, who were promised access to BadgerCare as of January 1, 2014 in your budget request. As you know, your budget would have granted BadgerCare eligibility to all those under the poverty level, including childless adults.
Your Department of Health Services has been engaging in an outreach plan to the newly-eligible population, and some individuals who have applied for BadgerCare (through the Marketplaces or elsewhere) have already received confirmations of BadgerCare coverage.
We were dismayed to learn that you now plan to renege on the promise to cover those below the poverty line in January 2014, and have now proposed delaying their eligibility until April 1, 2014.
The key source of our concern is that individuals below 100% of the poverty level are ineligible for premium tax credits to purchase coverage in the Marketplace.
As a result of your budget proposal, the newly-eligible BadgerCare population will fall into a three-month gap in coverage; they will be unable to sign up for the BadgerCare program but also unable to purchase subsidized coverage in the Marketplace.
Due to their low income level, they would not have the means to purchase coverage without a subsidy.
This group would thus be in a unique and inequitable situation—essentially, worse off and with fewer options than other Wisconsinites.
Given that this is a vulnerable population—they are already living in poverty and are more likely to be in poor health than the rest of the overall population— we strongly urge you to reconsider your plan for this group.
We realize that you plan to utilize the “savings” from delaying coverage for the 80,000 individuals under the poverty line to pay for coverage for about 77,000 parents currently on BadgerCare.
However, we encourage you to seek alternative budgetary savings, which would allow you to provide coverage for both populations through March 2014. In addition, we once again recommend that you reconsider your choice not to fully expand BadgerCare under the Affordable Care Act.
You have the option to expand BadgerCare with a 100 percent match for all newly-eligible enrollees.
This funding would allow you to offset the cost of continuing coverage for BadgerCare enrollees above the poverty line.
It is time to move past politics and do what’s right for Wisconsin.
The Affordable Care Act provides the opportunity for Wisconsin to receive $119 million to ensure that our most at risk populations have health care access and coverage.
We urge you to join your Republican Governor colleagues and expand Medicaid. Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona, Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan, and Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, among others, recognized the need to move beyond political rhetoric and put their constituents’ health first.
We remain dedicated to collaborating with you, and the Obama Administration, to ensure the best possible outcome for Wisconsin under the Affordable Care Act.
We request that you consider our suggestions for the most vulnerable population in our state. We look forward to your response.
Member of Congress
Member of Congress
Member of Congress
Cc: The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services