Proposal delaying coverage could save $23 million

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to delay kicking about 72,000 off of Medicaid would actually save the state about $23 million because of the plan’s other component — delaying expanding coverage to poor childless adults, according to an analysis.

The Legislature’s budget committee is slated to take up the proposal on Monday for the three-month delay. The Assembly is scheduled to vote on it in a special session called by Walker on Wednesday, with the Senate taking it up later in the month.

An analysis of the proposal by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau released Tuesday, along with the bill itself, details the estimated savings.

Walker earlier this month called the special session to delay a major portion of his health care initiative passed into law as part of the state budget. Current law calls for ending BadgerCare Plus Medicaid coverage for anyone earning more than 100 percent of poverty starting in January, down from the 200 percent cut-off currently.

That move is estimated to result in 72,000 people losing their coverage. Another part of Walker’s plan called for ending a waiting list for BadgerCare coverage to childless adults below the federal poverty line starting in January. That is expected to add 83,000 people to the program.

The federal poverty level is $11,490 for an individual, $15,510 for a couple and $23,550 for a family of four.

Walker’s plan relied on the 72,000 losing Medicaid coverage instead purchasing subsidized insurance through the online marketplaces, or exchanges, created under the federal health care overhaul law.

But ongoing technical problems are making it difficult for people to sign up through the online exchange. In the first month, only 877 people in Wisconsin were able to sign up, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Given that, Walker agreed to delay kicking people out of Medicaid from January to April. To pay for keeping those people on the state-funded Medicaid program, Walker also delayed expanding the childless adult program to add 83,000 people.

Health advocacy groups and Democrats have been calling on Walker to reconsider that delay, saying it leaves childless adults with no ability to sign up for health care coverage for three months.

“The governor and Legislature need to stand up and provide coverage for these people,” said Bobby Peterson, executive director of ABC for Health, a public-interest law firm in Madison that helps connect families around the state with health care. “These are our most vulnerable, low income family members, neighbors, and friends. And they were waiting. They were told there was going to be coverage.”

Democratic state Rep. Jon Richards, a member of the budget committee, also renewed his call for Walker to reverse himself and agree to take money from the federal government to cover Medicaid recipients up to 138 percent of poverty.

“I do think this is an opportunity for the governor and Legislature to put ideology aside and accept the expansion of Medicaid,” Richards said. “The best and most comprehensive way to deal with the waiting list is to take the expansion money.”

Walker’s spokeswoman Jocelyn Webster defended the governor’s plan, noting that everyone living in poverty will be covered under Medicaid for the first time in Wisconsin.

“At the same time, people living above poverty will be moved into the marketplace,” she said. “The transition has been delayed by three months because of the failure of the federal government.”

Walker has repeatedly rejected calls to take the money and touted his rejection of it during a national tour last week promoting his new book “Unintimidated.”

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