MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker called a special legislative session Thursday to extend the deadline for moving 77,000 people of Medicaid until April, saying they need more time to sign up for private insurance through the problem-plagued online federal health care exchange.
Walker, a Republican, toughened Medicaid eligibility in the state budget, saying those people could find private coverage through the exchange. He had given everyone who would lose coverage until Dec. 15 to sign up for an alternative plan through the exchange to ensure uninterrupted coverage on Jan. 1.
But the website has been fraught with problems, making it difficult to sign up. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released state-by-state numbers on Wednesday that showed only 877 Wisconsin residents have been able to successfully enroll in a program between Oct. 1, when the exchange opened, and Nov. 2.
Walker said at a news conference that by April, the federal government should have the exchange working properly.
"We see very vividly it's not working," Walker said of the exchange. "We want to make sure nobody falls through the cracks."
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, told The Associated Press he wasn't sure how much support Walker has in that chamber for the proposal, saying the Legislature shouldn't have to "bail out" Democrats for the problems of the health care overhaul launch.
He said he'd rather extend the deadline on a month-to-month basis.
"I'd just like to explore that first," he said. "I'm working with the governor to get there."
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Madison Democrat, sent Walker a letter on Tuesday asking him to let the 77,000 stay on Medicaid through the end of March, when the exchange closes for everyone. Her letter came a few days after advocacy groups wrote to Walker expressing concern about the Dec. 15 deadline. They asked Walker to spell out his contingency plans if enrollment on the exchange continues to be difficult.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) --Gov. Scott Walker has called a special legislative session to extend the deadline for moving 77,000 people off Medicaid.
Walker says he wants to see the deadline moved to April 1. That would give people more time to get insurance through the online exchange created under the federal health overhaul. Walker had given the 77,000 until Dec. 15 to use the exchange, but the website has been fraught with problems.
The state Senate's leader says he's not on board with Walker's plan. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, a Juneau Republican, told The Associated Press he believes the Legislature should vote on a monthly basis on whether to extend the deadline.
Walker has tightened Medicaid eligibility, forcing 77,000 people off the program. That had been set to happen on Jan. 1.
Statement from U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin regarding Governor Walker’s new BadgerCare proposal:
“I supported building a Wisconsin-made, state-based Health Insurance Marketplace for individuals and small businesses and I joined others in encouraging the Walker Administration to take that path. State-run marketplaces are working across the country and enrolling people but Governor Walker chose to rely on the federal government’s website. In fact, 74 percent of the enrollments in the Marketplace so far have come from states that chose to build their own state-based marketplaces. Unfortunately, Wisconsin wasn’t one of them because Governor Walker refused to build a state-based marketplace for our state.
“I also urged the Governor to seize the opportunity to strengthen our BadgerCare program by accepting a federal partnership and investment to expand Medicaid with the Affordable Care Act. Again, Governor Walker refused and chose to make Wisconsin one of just two states that are set to kick a large number of individuals off their current Medicaid coverage in 2014. In the past month, as states across the nation, including our Midwestern neighbors, accepted the Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansion, 400,000 Americans have gained health coverage through Medicaid.
“In Wisconsin, we are paying a price for Governor Walker’s decisions and the problems with the federal website. I am encouraged that Governor Walker has listened to my call to ensure that Wisconsinites with BadgerCare coverage today will not lose the health care they need at the start of the year. However, the Governor’s new proposal breaks the promise he made in his budget and leaves upwards of 80,000 low-income Wisconsinites out in the cold.
“It doesn’t have to be this way and the solution I proposed is a stronger path forward for our state. The Governor should accept the federal investment to strengthen BadgerCare offered by the Affordable Care Act. That would ensure a 100 percent federal reimbursement covering all newly-eligible individuals, including the over 80,000 Wisconsinites that the Governor is leaving out of the BadgerCare program. The Governor could even accept this deal temporarily - for a year or through the end of the open enrollment period in March. These cost savings would allow the Governor to offset any additional costs of continuing BadgerCare coverage for current enrollees. The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau has found that this path I have proposed would cover more people and save the state money. It’s disappointing that Governor Walker has chosen not to take it.”