By Adam Tobias | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has vowed to clean up the Obama administration’s mess, and he intends to do so without using any additional money from the state’s general purpose revenue fund.
The Republican governor has called for legislation to extend BadgerCare coverage by three months for close to 80,000 Wisconsin residents while the federal government irons out the kinks that have massively disrupted the Affordable Care Act’s online exchange systems.
Approximately 77,000 Wisconsinites were expected to switch from BadgerCare Plus — the state’s version of Medicaid — to the new federal insurance plans on Jan. 1, but Walker said the problems that have plagued the exchanges likely will prevent that from happening.
“We don’t want anyone in this state to fall through the cracks,” Walker said Thursday.
Only 877 Wisconsin residents had selected a marketplace insurance plan through the federal online exchange system between Oct. 1 and Nov. 2, according to a report released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Walker said that failure is precisely why he rejected more than $4 billion in federal funding through 2019 to expand Medicaid coverage in Wisconsin as part of the ACA.
“I’ve said time and time again, I’m not going to jeopardize and put at risk the taxpayers in my state for a federal government that cannot balance its budget, a federal government that continues to grow the national debt, as well as the deficit, and today … a federal government that can’t even get a basic website up and going they’ve known about for several years,” Walker said.
Under Walker’s proposal, 77,000 citizens would be able to keep their BadgerCare coverage until March 31. After that date, they would be responsible for getting insurance through the federal exchange.
The BadgerCare extension will not require any additional general purpose revenue funds, according to Walker.
The governor’s 2013-2015 budget already had added approximately $650 million in general purpose revenue for Medicaid. Overall, the total Medicaid budget for the 2013-2015 biennium is about $16.3 billion.
Walker is also asking the Wisconsin Legislature to pass a bill that would extend the state’s Health Insurance Risk-Sharing Plan by three months to provide an added safety net during the transition.
The Health Insurance Risk-Sharing Plan, which covers about 20,000 people, has a considerable surplus to allow the state to continue the program, Walker said.
Attempts to reach the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance to determine the amount of the surplus were unsuccessful.
Both of Walker’s initiatives, which are expected to be considered by the Legislature in a special session sometime after Thanksgiving, would not require approval from the federal government, according to Tom Evenson, the governor’s spokesman.
Walker predicts the legislation will pass with broad bipartisan support.
But some Democratic lawmakers are not as optimistic.
“What Governor Walker failed to mention during his press conference (Thursday) is that we wouldn’t need to call for a special session if he had not repeatedly refused funding to strengthen BadgerCare and develop a Wisconsin-specific health care exchange,” state Rep. Sandy Pasch, D-Shorewood, said in a press release.
Walker is also requesting that the federal government grant the state a waiver that would allow Wisconsinites who qualify for subsidies to be able to use that financial assistance for any qualified health plan, even those outside the exchanges.
Walker’s proposal comes on the heels of President Barack Obama’s announcement that Americans will now be able to keep their cancelled health insurance policies for a year.
More than 4.8 million Americans had received notices that their preexisting plans were soon to be illegal, according to Forbes.
Insurance companies must also inform consumers of what benefits those plans lack, and of options for better coverage under the new law.
Obama’s initiative is extremely similar to the “If You Like Your Health Care, You Can Keep It Act,” that was already introduced by U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.
Contact Adam Tobias at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Scoop_Tobias
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