Wisconsin governor signs Medicaid delay bill

  • Article by: TODD RICHMOND
  • Associated Press
  • December 20, 2013 - 1:10 PM

MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill Friday that allows about 72,000 people to stay on Medicaid until spring but delays expanding coverage to tens of thousands of others to pay for it.

The current state law forces about 72,000 parents and caretakers who earn more than the poverty level out of Medicaid in January. Walker, a Republican, has said those people can buy new coverage through the federally run health insurance marketplace. At the same time, about 83,000 childless adults who earn less than the poverty level would be allowed to join the program.

Last month, though, Walker proposed delaying kicking people out of the program until April because the launch of the federal health insurance exchange website was fraught with technical problems. The delay would give them three additional months to find insurance.

To pay for that continuation, Walker proposed delaying coverage for childless adults until April.

Republicans who control the state Assembly and Senate passed a bill earlier this month executing the governor's plan, saying the state is doing its best to maneuver the failed federal health care overhaul. The governor signed the bill in private Friday and issued a statement saying the measure "gives Wisconsinites more time to make a logical health care transition."

Democrats and health care advocates have criticized Walker for delaying Medicaid coverage for the childless adults, saying the move creates confusion and leaves needy people with no coverage.

State health officials say they're planning to notify people of the change with a letter and phone calls. They've also posted notices on their website. Walker said in his statement that next year everyone living in poverty will have health insurance for the first time.

Under the bill, the new income eligibility levels for Medicaid — $11,490 for an individual and $23,550 for a family of four — begin in April.

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