Wis. to call, send letters about Medicaid change
- Article by: SCOTT BAUER
- Associated Press
- December 13, 2013 - 2:20 PM
MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin health officials plan to call and send letters to all 83,000 childless adults who were originally scheduled to start receiving Medicaid in January but now will have to wait until April under a cost-savings move by Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature.
The calls will be placed not only to those who thought they were about to receive coverage but also another 80,000 childless adults who have been on a waiting list but earn too much under tighter eligibility requirements set by Walker and the Legislature, said Department of Health Services spokeswoman Stephanie Smiley.
Democrats and health advocates have been critical of Walker's decision to delay by three months extending Medicaid to those earning less than poverty level, saying it creates confusion and denies insurance to needy people.
The state's planned phone calls and letters are "a Band-Aid on a wide, gaping wound," said Bobby Peterson, executive director of the health care advocacy group ABC for Health, a public-interest law firm in Madison that helps connect Wisconsin families with health care.
Peterson said it won't help those who were hoping to visit a doctor in January and now will have to wait three more months.
Walker proposed delaying the coverage to help pay for keeping roughly 72,000 people on Medicaid for three additional months so they would have more time to sign up for private insurance through the federal health insurance exchange. Those people earn between 100 percent and 200 percent of the poverty level and were originally slated to be kicked out of Medicaid in January. Under Walker's proposal, which passed the Assembly earlier this month and is before the Senate on Thursday, they will remain on the program until April.
The new income eligibility for Medicaid recipients in Wisconsin will be $11,490 for an individual and $23,550 for a family of four.
Democrats in the Legislature and others have urged Walker and Republicans to take federal money to expand the state's Medicaid program. Walker rejected that and instead lowered income eligibility for Medicaid to poverty level, resulting in 72,000 people losing coverage but 83,000 childless adults coming onto the program for the first time.
Democratic Assembly leader Rep. Peter Barca expressed concern to Walker in a letter this week that there will be little time during the busy holiday season to let those affected by the delay in coverage know that they won't have insurance starting in the New Year like they thought.
Barca said Friday that Walker's notification plan was "totally inadequate" because the phone calls and letters won't go out until less than two weeks before January, when many thought their coverage was beginning. Walker should have sent a letter after the Assembly voted on his plan on Dec. 4, Barca said.
Smiley, the DHS spokeswoman, said plans have been in the works since Walker announced in November that he was going to delay coverage. A notice was placed on the online application tool used by people newly applying for coverage as well as on the main DHS website, she said.
Once the Senate approves the bill, the department will also be mailing a letter notifying the delay to the 83,000 childless adults and those who already applied, Smiley said.
After the letters are mailed, Smiley said, DHS will call all 163,000 people on the waiting list for BadgerCare Plus Core plan — both those who will qualify for Medicaid coverage and those who earn too much and instead will have to purchase private insurance on the exchange.
Additionally, DHS is working with community partners, insurance providers, and others who deal directly with those affected to make sure they know about the delays, Smiley said.
"As the days and weeks go by the department will likely be adding additional outreach strategies," she said.
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