With 92,000 Wisconsinites set to lose their Medicaid coverage beginning in 2014, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act will change the state’s management of healthcare for low-income citizens.
The Department of Health Services began notifying families and individuals this week who will lose BadgerCare Plus benefits by Jan. 1, 2014. Officials will continue to notify those who will be affected through October.
According to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report released Wednesday, Wisconsin residents who must enroll in private health insurance coverage can choose from up to 97 health plans, with the cheapest plan costing about $287 a month.
The requirement to enroll in private plans comes as a result of Gov. Scott Walker’s Entitlement Reform Plan, which will lower the income eligibility threshold for BadgerCare from 200 percent to 100 percent below the national poverty line after Walker formally rejected federal dollars for a Medicaid expansion.
The Wisconsin Counties Association recently voted to support a 138 percent threshold under ACA this week in hopes of reaching a compromise.
Rep. John Richards, D-Milwaukee, praised the decision in a statement, saying it is not too late for Walker and Republicans to take the federal Medicaid funding and “reverse their terrible mistake.”
“Rejecting an opportunity to insure more people that saves state taxpayers money was partisan politics at its worst,” Richards said.
In response to criticism, however, DHS developed a plan officials believe will smooth the transition for those losing their coverage.
DHS spokesperson Claire Smith said Walker’s reforms aim to bring BadgerCare Plus back in line with the program’s original intent: helping families in poverty gain access to affordable health care.
Smith said DHS hopes lowering the income threshold will make the program sustainable for the future and provide a variety of ways for Wisconsin families to gain access to affordable health care.
In addition, Smith said several steps are outlined to make changes in tandem with ACA, help residents who no longer qualify for BadgerCare to transition to a private provider using local resources and remind residents to enroll in a health care program.
Citizens are encouraged to work with local groups to get help enrolling in the appropriate private or public health insurance options, such as community groups, Smith said.
“We found that people go to their trusted resources in their community, such as pharmacies, Boys and Girls Clubs, libraries, etc.,” Smith said. “We also have a broad grassroots level outreach campaign with regional enrollment networks.”
After involving community organizations, Smith said DHS will send notices to BadgerCare members who may lose coverage.
Smith said in mid-October, DHS will begin making these phone calls, reminding them to take action before Dec. 31, when coverage runs out for those who lose their BadgerCare coverage.
Sen. Nikiya Harris, D-Milwaukee, said in a statement the DHS Inspector General is not keeping the public informed because the office did not schedule town hall meetings to discuss the changes until only 48 hours in advance.
“This directly points to the Walker Administrations’ lack of effort in informing Wisconsinites about the healthcare exchanges and how it will affect current BadgerCare recipients who are losing coverage,” Harris said.
Open enrollment will continue until the end of March 2014, but it is largely up to individuals to follow the department’s guidance in finding new healthcare options, Smith said.
Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, a member of the Joint Finance Committee and Senate Health and Human Services committee, declined to comment.
Walker’s office also declined to comment.