Medicaid recipients losing coverage to get letter

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — BadgerCare recipients who make too much money to remain in the program next year will receive letters this week from Gov. Scott Walker’s administration letting them know that their coverage is about to end and that they can shop for insurance through the new online exchange.

The letters are being sent to more than 56,000 households where one or more person is expected to lose their coverage at the end of the year, although those who are getting kicked off won’t get the final notice until December.

Ultimately, about 92,000 people are expected to lose Medicaid coverage and instead have to shop for federally subsidized private insurance through the exchange, or marketplace. The enrollment period for that begins on Oct. 1, with coverage starting in January.

Walker proposed, and the Republican Legislature earlier this year approved, new income limits that restrict BadgerCare coverage to adults earning less than 100 percent of poverty. That is $11,500 for an individual or $23,550 for a family of four. Until the change, adults earning up to 200 percent of poverty were eligible.

Walker rejected federal money under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law to pay for coverage those who earn up to 138 percent of poverty. However, Walker’s budget did provide additional money to eliminate a waiting list for Medicaid coverage for childless adults who earn less than 100 percent of poverty. That is expected to add about 82,000 people to the program.

The changes in Wisconsin do not affect pregnant women and those who are elderly, blind or disabled.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who supports the Affordable Care Act, sent Walker a letter Monday saying his letter and repeated calls for the repeal of the federal law will only confuse those who are losing coverage.

“Instead of playing political games with people’s health care and calling for repealing, defunding or delaying the ACA, it is my sincere hope that you will lead on the law’s implementation because you have a shared responsibility to make sure it works for Wisconsin,” Baldwin wrote.

The state will be contacting all affected households by telephone starting in mid-October to ensure they received the notice, understood what it meant and are taking action, said Walker’s spokesman Tom Evenson.

The Department of Health Services and the insurance commissioner’s office are providing as much information as possible to people as it becomes available, Evenson said. He also pointed out that DHS has been working with other groups to create regional networks to assist people signing up for coverage through the exchange.

Walker’s letter will be sent in in five batches, one per day this week. It is going to 56,552 households, but more than one person at each address may lose coverage, according to DHS spokeswoman Stephanie Smiley.

The letter says that another communication will be coming in December letting them know who exactly in their household is affected and how their eligibility will change. Those losing coverage they must apply for insurance through the marketplace by Dec. 15.

Waiting until December for a personalized notice that someone is losing coverage is not soon enough, Baldwin said.

“These families cannot afford to pay for any shortcomings you are creating in not seamlessly moving these Wisconsinites from BadgerCare to the new Marketplace,” Baldwin wrote to Walker.

Walker’s spokesman said the purpose of the letters was to allow current Medicaid recipients enough time, either to report a change in their eligibility that could keep them on the program or to shop for insurance through the exchange.

Sending the letters now is a good step, but there will still be a logjam at the end of the year of people who are losing coverage trying to purchase a plan on the marketplace, said Jon Peacock, research director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families.

Many people will not have enough time to correct their case files before their coverage is terminated at the end of the year, Peacock said.

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