The state Senate Thursday passed a bare-bones health plan for low income residents. Minority Leader, Republican Senator Scott Fitzgerald, said this BadgerCare Basic plan is basically the public option which Democrats in Washington failed to get included in health care reform. “It’s ObamaCare light,” charged Fitzgerald. “It’s been done in increments, but this is the final piece. This is the final piece that Governor Doyle wants on his way out the door as a lame duck governor.”
BadgerCare Basic is a plain for low income residents in the waiting list for BadgerCare Core. The state was forced to suspend enrollees in BadgerCare Core back in October, but Governor Jim Doyle promised to provide coverage for those on the waiting list, who number approximately 25,000.
“You can call it the public option, you can call it ObamaCare, you can call it government run health care, it’s not,” said the bill’s author, Democrat Jon Erpenbach “It’s a mechanism for those 25,000 people, if they choose to do so, to get together to form a pool, spread out the risk and at the very least have basic bare bones coverage for about 130 bucks a month.”
“We are creating expectations among the poorest people in our state, for a plan that provides mediocre coverage, and is too expensive,” said Senator Kathleen Vinehout of Alma, the only Democrat to vote against the bill. The Basic plan is supposed to be self funded by enrollees’ $130 monthly premium. There is also a one million dollar federal grant, but Vinehout and Berlin Republican Luther Olson said the plan is severley undercapitolized. “We’re going to become the board of directors of our own insurance company,” said Olson, adding that the state insurance commissioner would never sign off on a privatley offered plan if it were so poorly capitalized.
“We want to allow the folks that really need it an option to take a policy for a hundred and thirty a month – not the best policy – but if there’s somethnig out there better, they’ll have the opportunity to do that,” said Green Bay Democrat Dave Hansen. “But when the people go to get this insurance they’ll find out that they won’t be getting much,” said Neenah Republican Mike Ellis. “They get an aspirin and maybe a cup of cough syrup, and then they’re going to be all over your back: why is it that I’m getting some sub-standard health care.?”
The bill (SB 484) passed 17-16 and now heads to the Assembly. Senators did approve an amendment offered by Vinehout, requiring a state audit of the program after its first year of operation.
Sens. Fitzgerald, Erpenbach (8:00 MP3) AUDIO: Sens. Fitzgerald, Erpenbach (8:00 MP3)