February 13, 2016

Finance panel approves BadgerCare changes

The Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance has approved Governor Scott Walker’s plan to delay changes to the state’s BadgerCare Plus, and extend for another three months coverage to some 72,000 residents under the basic BadgerCare plan. The committee’s 11-2 vote on Monday set the stage for action in the Assembly later this week and by the Senate later this month.

Health care advocates testified against the plan – which will delay the BadgerCare Plus eligibility of 83,000 poor, childless adults by another three months – during a brief public hearing prior to the vote.

Bobby Peterson, an attorney who heads ABC For Health, was critical of the plan, which Republicans have framed as a necessity because of the failings of Obamacare.

“Common sense will tell you that it’s not their fault,” said Peterson. “Take some responsibility yourself and quit pointing fingers. There’s a lot of blame to go around, but a lot of it rests here with the legislature and this committee.”

“The fact that we spent $600 to $700 million on a (federal health exchange) website that’s not functioning is why we’re here today. Let’s not lose sight of that fact,” said JFC co-chair, Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette). Nygren also called the roll out of Obamacare “a disaster.”

Republican committee members ramped up the rhetoric even further as the committee debated the plan prior to its vote, with Representative Dean Knudson (R-Hudson) referring to Obamacare as “a man-made catastrophe of unprecedented proportions.”

“As long as politicians keep tinkering with the relationship between doctors and their patients, we are going to have these problems,” said Representative Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield). “It’s a good lesson in how as we get further from the free market, we get farther from compassionate care for people in our community who are hurting and who need real solutions to these problems.”

Representative Cory Mason (D-Racine) said it was “unconscionable” to delay the access to BadgerCare Plus. “We are here making a bad situation worse . . . a couple of weeks before Christmas. I just don’t understand the values that are driving these decisions,” said Mason.

The state budget which the Republican controlled legislature approved earlier this year had some 72,000 adult residents just over federal income cutoffs moved off BadgerCare, to buy their own, subsidized health plans through Obamacare’s online federal exchange. The same budget would also provide BadgerCare Plus for 83,000 adults below the poverty.

Governor Scott Walker called lawmakers into special session when the failures of the federal exchange made it largely impossible for those being dropped by BadgerCare to get replacement coverage.

Finance committee member, Representative John Klenke (R-Green Bay), said the fault lay squarely with President Barack Obama. “Somebody made a promise, and they knew they couldn’t keep it, and they made it with the knowledge that a lot of people were going to get hurt,” Klenke said. “That’s unconscionable.”


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