The Walker administration released a couple sets of numbers on Wednesday – about residents and health insurance.
June 1 was the deadline for purchasing health plans on the new federal exchange. One report shows nearly 166,000 state residents bought coverage by the deadline – and most used the exchange.
But, a second report shows most people Wisconsin cut from its BadgerCare program, did not meet the deadline. The state is promising to follow-up with those residents.
Gov. Walker changed the rules for Wisconsin’s Medicaid program, as of this spring. He decided it would accept all childless adults living below the poverty level, and remove those earning slightly above.
The federal government had offered to cover people earning up to 133 percent of poverty, but Walker doubted Washington’s long-term commitment. He said the 63,000 people Wisconsin would drop, could buy a plan through the Affordable Care Act.
The numbers released Wednesday show that 60 percent did not. Kevin Moore is deputy secretary of the state Dept. of Health Services. He says the report does not necessarily mean those 38,000 residents are now uninsured.
“They may have gone back on their employer-sponsored health insurance, they may have gotten insurance through a spouse’s plan, or they may have just decided not to purchase and decided to take the penalty that was afforded by the ACA,” Moore says.
Moore says the state will spend the coming months contacting those who did not enroll, to find out what happened. Meanwhile, he touted the number of childless adults who have enrolled in Badger Care Plus, under the new rules; more than 97,000 since April.
“It’s a very exciting day, we’re very encouraged by the enrollment numbers. We expect the numbers to grow over the course of the next month or two,” Moore says.
One person concerned about the unaccounted for 38,000 people is Kevin Kane, of the government watchdog group, Wisconsin Citizen Action.
“These individuals now face a coverage gap because they cannot buy a private plan for the rest of the year and they can’t be in Badger Care and so unfortunately, these 38,000 individuals don’t really have much option,” Kane says.
Kane continues urging Gov. Walker to change his mind and accept the federal money, to cover the people Badger Care dropped. Clare Reardon doesn’t want to call the numbers released Wednesday good or bad. She works for the Milwaukee Enrollment Network. Reardon considers the counts helpful, because they give organizations such as hers, a baseline.
“In the next few months when we get a bit more information from our qualified health plans, we’ll be better able to understand where individuals who are eligible to transition from Badger Care into the private market have gone and will be able to do a better job getting them into the insurance they can afford," Reardon says.
Gov. Walker has promised to cut in half the number of uninsured people in Wisconsin. In March, the figure stood at more than a half million. The new federal exchange seems to have reduced the number so far, by about 153,000.