Wisconsin hospitals are advocating for Gov. Scott Walker to delay shifting thousands of patients from state to federal health care coverage scheduled to begin in January.

The Wisconsin Hospital Association, Wisconsin Council on Children and Families and a U.S. senator from Montana have show their concern over continuing coverage and online transfers associated with Medicaid exchanges.

Federal Medicaid exchanges are scheduled to bring in patients in October and begin operation at the start of 2012.

Mary Kay Grasmick, spokesperson for the Wisconsin Hospital Association, said her organization worries the soon-to-be federally-run program may not be completely set up for enrollment by that time.

“Our concern is whether it will be ready to enroll people by October and whether it will be fully functional in January,” she said.

WHA President Steve Brenton echoed the sentiments of Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., that the Medicaid exchange enrollment component of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act is a looming “train wreck.”

In a statement Friday, Brenton said Walker has made a valiant approach to wean impoverished individuals off Medicaid. But, Brenton added, many questions remain under his proposal and implementation at this stage would be premature.

“The governor and Legislature should hit the pause button and act proactively to delay or phase in implementation of Medicaid disenrollment, especially for individuals below 133 percent of the federal poverty level,” Brenton said. “Those individuals should instead, at least for the next year or two, remain enrolled in Medicaid.”

Research Director for the Wisconsin Center for Children and Families Jon Peacock said Obama’s ACA intends to federally cover all adults up to 133 percent of the poverty level while those who earn more would enter new health insurances exchange marketplaces, Peacock said. 

After the Supreme Court ruled last summer states could not require Medicaid to completely fund coverage for those earning up to 133 percent of the poverty level, Walker declined the federal funding, Peacock added.

Peacock said he opposes Walker’s refusal of federal Medicaid aid. Such aid could save Wisconsin millions and cover about 89,000 parents above the poverty level statewide, he added.

“His plan would cover a whole fewer people than what we could do with the state’s federal money, which could save about a hundred million in the next biennial budget and about half a billion dollars by 2020 by accepting federal money,” Peacock said. “He doesn’t want to do that.”

Peacock called on legislators to put their ideologies aside and make the “obvious” choice by accepting federal Medicaid funding.

If Walker is unwilling to accept the federal aid, however, Peacock recommends the governor at least push back the Medicaid shift a year or two as a way to “get the kinks out of these exchanges,” relating to computer software function and ensuring enrollment.

If state officials attempt to rush the Medicaid exchange program launch in October, Peacock said several hundred thousand uninsured Wisconsinites will be left scrambling to transition out of BadgerCare coverage. He called it a “recipe for disaster.”

“Even if they do get an exchange up and running by next January, there’s a good chance that the change won’t go as smoothly as we would like,” Peacock said.