Policy: Entitlements

Wisconsin health care advocates question Scott Walker

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Associated Press,Obamacare,Wisconsin,Health Care,Medicare and Medicaid,Entitlements,Scott Walker

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin health care advocates want Gov. Scott Walker to say what will happen with 77,000 adults being shifted off Medicaid in January if they are not able to get coverage through the new health insurance exchange in time.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported Friday that advocacy groups sent Walker a letter this week expressing their concern.

Walker said in February that adults on Medicaid, or BadgerCare, who make more than the poverty level will have to switch to insurance on the federal exchange Jan. 1. The deadline to enroll on the exchange for coverage by then is Dec. 15.

In late September, the state notified 77,000 people, most of them parents, that they might be affected. But letters letting people know for sure won't be sent until Nov. 23, when the state expects to be ready to use new federal criteria to determine eligibility.

The federal health insurance exchange website, healthcare.gov, has been plagued with problems making it difficult for people to sign up. Federal officials say the site is improving and should be running smoothly by the end of the month.

"We are concerned that this short window does not allow enough time for all 77,000 custodial parents who are losing BadgerCare eligibility to complete the process of enrolling in qualified health plans via the marketplace," advocacy groups said in a letter to Walker on Thursday.

The letter asks Walker to spell out his contingency plans if enrollment on the exchange continues to be difficult or if the federal government creates conditions under which Walker's plan can't be implemented.

The goal remains to get people signed up by Dec. 15 so they have uninterrupted coverage, said state Department of Health Services spokeswoman Claire Smith.

The letter was sent by six groups: Community Advocates Public Policy Institute, Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, Mental Health America of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Primary Health Care Association, Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health and ABC for Health.

Walker opposes the federal health care overhaul law, which relies on the exchanges to increase coverage for people who don't get insurance through their jobs or programs such as Medicaid. Like most governors, Walker chose to have the federal government run the state's exchange.

Walker also rejected federal funding to expand Medicaid to everyone earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Instead, he's shifting the 77,000 parents off Medicaid and allowing about 82,000 childless adults earning less than the poverty level to enroll in Medicaid.

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