Many of the Wisconsin residents dropped from the state’s BadgerCare Plus program earlier this year may be having a hard time obtaining coverage from somewhere else. New figures released by the state Wednesday show that, of the 63,000 people who lost coverage because of new income eligibility requirements, nearly 60 percent did not obtain new health insurance plans through the federal exchange system.
Majority Republicans in the state Legislature rejected federal funding to expand the state’s Medicaid program to cover all residents living at or below 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Instead, they opted for a plan from Governor Scott Walker that called for covering all residents living at or below the FPL, which is about $23,850 for a family of four.
Figures released by the state Wednesday show that enrollment in BadgerCare under the changes has grown by 97,509 people, as of the end of June. Department of Health Services Deputy Secretary Kevin Moore says they “are very encouraged by the enrollment numbers.”
For those living above the FPL, backers of the plan argued they could purchase coverage through the federal exchange system. However, the state says nearly 60 percent of those who lost BadgerCare coverage did not purchase a plan through the exchange. Moore contends that some of those individuals may have purchased insurance through a non-exchange vendor or obtained it through their employer, but critics argue the state may be overstating that possibility.
Kevin Kane with Citizen Action of Wisconsin says it’s more likely that those who lost their BadgerCare and are living just above the poverty line simply can’t afford to buy coverage through an exchange, even with the federal subsidies that are being offered. He adds that only a small amount have jobs where employer-offered health insurance is even an option. Kane says studies have shown “less than even a fourth of them have access to employer coverage…and many of them are not going to be able to buy private health insurance without the tax credits that are available for low-income individuals.” He says it’s more likely those roughly 38,000 people are just going without coverage for the time being and paying the federal penalties.
Kane says the numbers released by the state are yet another sign Republicans should reconsider the decision to reject federal funding, which would allow the state to expand its Medicaid programs and cover more low-income residents.