Wisconsin Senate passes Medicaid delay
- Article by: SCOTT BAUER
- Associated Press
- December 19, 2013 - 5:00 PM
MADISON, Wis. — Around 83,000 childless adults in Wisconsin will have to wait at least three more months to receive Medicaid after state senators voted Thursday to delay their coverage while also pushing back the removal of about 72,000 other residents from the program.
The Republican-controlled Senate passed the bill 18-12 along party lines, sending the measure to Gov. Scott Walker, who has said he'll sign it Friday. The Assembly passed it earlier this month.
Current law expands Medicaid coverage in January to about 83,000 childless adults who earn less than the poverty level. At the same time, about 72,000 parents and caretakers receiving Medicaid now who earn more than poverty level would be kicked off the program. Those people would have to buy insurance and could do so through the federally run health insurance marketplace.
Walker, citing the widely acknowledged problems with the launch of the federal exchange website, last month proposed delaying kicking people out of Medicaid until April. That would give them three additional months to purchase insurance. To pay for that continuation of coverage, Walker also proposed delaying expanding Medicaid for the childless adults until April.
Democrats and health advocates have been critical of delaying extending Medicaid to qualifying childless adults, saying it creates confusion and denies insurance to needy people.
"It's almost like a return to the time of Scrooge," said Democratic Sen. Dave Hansen, of Green Bay, at a news conference prior to debate. "There are going to be a lot of people hurt in our state because of what's happening today."
Kathy Federman, 63, of Washington County, said at the news conference she was one of the 83,000 who was counting on getting coverage in January but now will have to wait. Federman said she earns about 95 percent of the federal poverty level, had a cancerous tumor that required removal of her left eye and has low vision in her right eye.
"I don't know what I'm going to do," Federman said. "I have no idea."
Democrats argued that because the changes are happening so close to January, when people like Federman thought they were going to start receiving Medicaid, many who may have scheduled doctors' visits or planned medical procedures will be caught off guard.
The state Department of Health Services said it plans to notify people of the change with a letter and phone calls, and have also posted notices on their website and is working with community partners to spread the word.
Republican senators defended the bill, saying Wisconsin was doing the best it could negotiating a failed federal law. More law changes may be needed later as other problems come to light, said Republican Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, of Juneau.
"I'm not sure what kind of mess we're going to have to clean up later," he said.
He and others defended Walker's decision to turn down federal money to expand Medicaid and instead take the approach he did, even though they were voting Thursday to delay key parts of his plan.
"We did the right thing. We're doing the right thing," said Sen. Rick Gudex, R-Fond du Lac.
Under the bill, the new income eligibility levels for Medicaid coverage would begin in April. Those levels will be $11,490 for an individual and $23,550 for a family of four.
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