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Walker Requests Delay for His Own Medicaid Reforms

Wisconsin lawmakers will convene in a special session Monday to consider putting state Medicaid reform on a three-month delay.

Gov. Walker is one of 25 Republican governors who rejected federal funds to expand Medicaid. Instead, he changed the state rules. Walker is allowing 82,000 extremely poor adults to enroll in BadgerCare. They were previously locked out, because the state capped enrollment. At the same time, the governor is cancelling coverage for 77,000 childless adults with incomes just above poverty.

Kevin Moore is deputy secretary of the state Department of Health Services. It’s telling those losing BadgerCare to buy subsidized coverage in the new federal marketplace.

“Obviously we’ve seen that the exchange has not lived up to its operational hype and so rather than really compress the timeframe for people, specifically that transition population, to move into the exchange, the governor made a decision,” Moore says.

Gov. Walker’s decision was to ask lawmakers to give people getting dropped from Medicaid an additional 90 days to get new plans.

But Moore says in order to fund the extra BadgerCare coverage, Wisconsin will have to wait to enroll the new group of poor adults.

“The budget was always predicated off of that the state would be able to transition the population over to the exchanges and then use that savings to bring on the new childless adult population,” Moore says. “Obviously since we’re not transitioning those people on January 1, it hinders the state’s ability to bring on the new population.”

The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau says a three-month delay would mean a $23-million reduction in state Medicaid spending. That’s not a savings to taxpayers, though. Moore says the money will help fill a growing hole in the Medicaid budget. The deficit exists because federal matching funds for Medicaid are declining as Wisconsin’s economy improves.

Officials say many outreach efforts are underway statewide to encourage the 77,000 losing BadgerCare to sign up for new coverage on the exchange. But Moore says there’s no way to know how many have done so. There are fears some won’t make the transition or will find plans with premiums, co-pays and deductibles they can’t afford. People have until December 23 to choose a plan and pay the premium, in order for coverage to start in January.

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