The legislature’s budget committee has approved changes for Wisconsin’s BadgerCare insurance program. A plan from the Walker administration, to shift more than 200,000 BadgerCare Plus families to less costly programs with reduced benefits, drew criticism from Democrats at the Capitol on Thursday.
AUDIO: Bob Hague reports (2:40)
Department of Health Services Secretary Dennis Smith got a grilling from Democrats on the Joint Finance Committee, including Racine Representative Cory Mason. “You’re still saying 64,748 people won’t have, won’t be on BadgerCare,” said Mason. “There’s an estimate of what the impact is in all of these different categories,” said Smith. “You disenroll somebody only if they’re already on the roll. Smith defended the Walker administration’s plan to trim $554 million from state Medicaid programs that provide health insurance to poor children and families. “It is very clear, we will ask people to pay a higher percentage of the cost of their care, that they would be responsible for, than they are currently,” said Smith. “I think that’s a matter of equity.”
In addition to shifting the BadgerCare Plus families to less expensive programs, the plan requires BadgerCare families making more than 150 percent of the federal poverty level to pay a 5 percent premium, and drops people from BadgerCare if they have access to affordable insurance at work. The committee voted along partisan lines to approve the changes, which Republicans supported and Democrats opposed. The changes must still be approved by the Obama administration.
Prior to the committee hearing and vote, members of the Save BadgerCare Coalition held a Capitol press conference. Bethany King of Madison is a small business owner whose enrollment in BadgerCare proved a lifesaver this year, when a previously undiagnosed condition sent her to the ER. “If I hadn’t gone to the emergency room, and I didn’t have health care coverage, I don’t know what would have happened to me, and I don’t want to know,” said King. “Right now we’re in danger of losing BadgerCare,” said Jessica Jaglowski, a married mother of three from Milwaukee. “If we lose BadgerCare, our lives will be turned upside down, since we won’t be able to afford health care. We won’t be able to afford insurance, and we won’t be able to afford the cost of medical care without insurance.”
“This is not just about tweaking the Medicaid program and cutting inefficiencies,” said Sara Finger, coordinator for the Save BadgerCare Coalition. “It’s about real, hardworking Wisconsin families who are losing affordable health care access under this plan from the administration.”