U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Offers Solutions to Governor Walker on his Plan to Move Wisconsinites off BadgerCare and Into ACA Marketplace

Washington D.C. – As a result of Governor Scott Walker’s decision to reject an opportunity to strengthen Wisconsin’s BadgerCare program through a federal partnership and investment, an estimated 77,000 Wisconsinites will lose their health insurance coverage on January 1, 2014 unless they enroll in the federal Health Insurance Marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by December 15.

Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin sent a letter to Governor Scott Walker raising concerns about Walker’s current plan and offered solutions “to ensure our constituents maintain the health coverage they need”.

In the letter Senator Baldwin writes, “Your current outreach plan calls for residents who will lose their BadgerCare coverage to receive final notice at the end of November, leaving them just two weeks to enroll or they will lose coverage on January 1.  Given the state’s current timeline for direct outreach to these individuals, the major issues with the federal government’s ACA website, and the fast-approaching deadline, thousands of people are at risk of losing their coverage.”

Senator Baldwin also offers a number of solutions that the Walker Administration could pursue, including altering their current request to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services so that BadgerCare enrollees maintain their current coverage through the end of March.

“Such a change would extend the deadline that BadgerCare enrollees face today to ensure uninterrupted health security from December 15, 2013 and align it with the deadline for open enrollment on the federal Health Insurance Marketplace - March 31, 2014,” Baldwin said, “To me, this is a common sense solution that will ensure that individuals receiving BadgerCare today will not lose coverage on January 1, 2014.  This solution would give the people we work for more time to enroll, gain access to ACA premium tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies, and eliminate the risk of lost coverage on January 1.” 

Baldwin also encourages Walker to fully expand BadgerCare under the Affordable Care Act - at no cost to the State of Wisconsin - temporarily until March 31, 2014. 

“Such changes would provide the state with a 100 percent federal match for all newly-eligible BadgerCare enrollees. These cost savings would allow you to offset any additional costs of continuing BadgerCare coverage for current enrollees through the end of open enrollment,” Baldwin said.  

Wisconsin Health Care Leaders Praise Senator Baldwin’s Solutions

“Many Wisconsinites who will be forced to transition from BadgerCare to insurance via the health marketplace simply won’t have the time to do so, and will instead become uninsured. Wisconsin should adopt the common sense interim solutions proposed by Senator Baldwin, which will provide more time for those making this difficult transition. The Senator’s plan will also help achieve the Governor’s commitment to cutting Wisconsin’s uninsured rate in half. ” – David Riemer, Senior Fellow, Community Advocates Public Policy Institute

"We are extremely concerned that the timeline for Wisconsin's changes in BadgerCare will needlessly disrupt essential health coverage for tens of thousands of moderate income Wisconsin families. Senator Baldwin is offering practical and common sense solutions which Governor Walker ought to adopt. Senator Baldwin's proposals would give Wisconsinites who are losing BadgerCare coverage the reasonable time they need to enroll in new federal options under the Affordable Care Act." – Robert Kraig, Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin

“Delaying the abrupt termination of people from BadgerCare isn’t just a matter of fairness for those families. By helping avoid a huge logjam of applications in early December, Senator Baldwin’s recommendations could improve the enrollment process for all who apply for insurance through the new marketplace.” Jon Peacock Research Director, Wisconsin Council on Children and Families

The text of the letter can be found below.

Click here to download the letter.

 

November 12, 2013

The Honorable Scott Walker
Governor of Wisconsin

115 East Capitol
Madison, WI 53702

Dear Governor Walker,

I am writing in regards to the health care coverage of the 77,000 low-income, working Wisconsin residents whose health coverage expires on January 1, 2014.   As a result of your decision to move these individuals off of BadgerCare, these citizens must be enrolled in the federal Health Insurance Marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by December 15 in order to prevent a lapse in coverage at the start of the new year.  Your current outreach plan calls for residents who will lose their BadgerCare coverage to receive final notice at the end of November, leaving them just two weeks to enroll or they will lose coverage on January 1.  Given the state’s current timeline for direct outreach to these individuals, the major issues with the federal government’s ACA website, and the fast-approaching deadline, thousands of people are at risk of losing their coverage.  Therefore, I am writing to raise this concern and to offer potential options in the hope that we can work together to ensure our constituents maintain the health coverage they need. 

Over the past year, I have written to you on a number of occasions regarding the ACA and I have had an opportunity to meet with representatives from the Department of Health Services and the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance.  First, I urged you to build a Wisconsin-made, state-based Health Insurance Marketplace for individuals and small businesses.  Instead, you chose to rely on the federal government’s website.  Second, I urged you to seize the opportunity to accept a federal partnership and investment to strengthen our BadgerCare program by expanding Medicaid under the ACA. Our Midwestern neighbors have widely accepted these opportunities. Governors from both parties in Michigan, Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota are supporting the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. Instead, you chose to make Wisconsin one of just two states in the nation that are set to kick a large number of individuals off their current Medicaid coverage in 2014. While you have not taken our state down the strongest path, I am committed to working with you to ensure these 77,000 BadgerCare recipients do not lose health coverage on January 1.

My most recent letter to you outlined problems with the state’s outreach to individuals losing their BadgerCare.  Since then, the state has made positive improvements, including making phone calls to affected families. I commend you for taking this positive step, yet reaching all of these individuals in a timely manner remains a significant challenge.  Furthermore, these residents must enroll through the federal ACA enrollment program and website—www.healthcare.gov—which has been plagued with problems.  I am deeply disappointed and extremely frustrated with the website.  While, the Administration has vowed to fix it as soon as possible, I have called on the Obama Administration to redouble its efforts to ensure that all Wisconsin residents, including the 77,000 BadgerCare recipients facing the December 15 enrollment deadline, have access to coverage through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace. 

Because of the transition issues and the fast-approaching December 15 deadline, I am offering a few solutions that you could pursue to help solve this problem.   First, I would urge you to alter your current request to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services so that BadgerCare enrollees maintain their current coverage through the end of March. Such a change would extend the deadline that BadgerCare enrollees face today to ensure uninterrupted health security from December 15, 2013 and align it with the deadline for open enrollment on the federal Health Insurance Marketplace—March 31, 2014.  To me, this is a common sense solution that will ensure that individuals receiving BadgerCare today will not lose coverage on January 1, 2014.  This solution would give the people we work for more time to enroll, gain access to ACA premium tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies, and eliminate the risk of lost coverage on January 1. 

In addition, you could choose to fully expand BadgerCare under the Affordable Care Act—at no cost to the State of Wisconsin—temporarily until March 31, 2014.  Such changes would provide the state with a 100 percent federal match for all newly-eligible BadgerCare enrollees.  These cost savings would allow you to offset any additional costs of continuing BadgerCare coverage for current enrollees through the end of open enrollment.  

I remain committed to working with you and the Obama Administration to ensure that the ACA works for Wisconsin and fixing what does not.  I ask that you strongly consider these solutions and I look forward to working together on this shared responsibility.

Sincerely,

                                                                         U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin

Cc: The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services