Friday, April 29, 2011

Changes to BadgerCare--Not so Forward Thinking

On March 23, 2010 the Affordable Care Act became law, helping more children get health coverage, ending lifetime and most annual limits on care, allowing young adults under 26 to stay on their parent's health insurance, and giving patients access to recommended preventative services without cost. While it seems the nation is making strides to provide better healthcare to more Americans, Wisconsin's new Governor wants to slash funding for and overhaul the state's BadgerCare Program that makes healthcare available for more Wisconsinites.

The BadgerCare Program was enacted in the fall of 1997 under Governor Thompson to make healthcare available for the working poor. Wisconsin succeeded in enrolling such a large proportion of the uninsured low-income children that policy makers in other states took notice. Read more about the history of BadgerCare here. Currently, the program serves more than 750,000 people and is so popular that there is a 70,000 person waiting list.

Who is currently eligible?
- All children under age 19, regardless of income.
- Pregnant women with incomes up to 300% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL)
- Parents and relatives caring for a child up to 200% of the FPL
- Young adults in foster care who turn 18 on or after January 1, 2008, will automatically be able to get BadgerCare Plus until they turn 21, regardless of income.
- Farm families and other families who are self-employed may be eligible under BadgerCare Plus if their income is under 200% of the FPL
- Parents whose child/children are in foster care and you have a reunification plan in place may be eligible for BadgerCare Plus if their income is below 200% of the FPL

The BadgerCare program is highly utilized, however under Governor Scott Walker's budget plan, about 55,000 people could lose their health insurance under the state's BadgerCare program. Then, going further, he wants to ensure that his appointed head of the state Department of Health Services (DHS), Dennis Smith, could make sweeping changes to Medicaid programs without approval by the full Legislature. The budget deficit is an issue, but is Walker taking this too far?

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