Gov. Walker's initial plan was to withdraw coverage from adults earning more than the poverty level and to refer them to the new federal exchange to buy private coverage.
But the new federal exchange has been mired in problems and fewer than 1,000 Wisconsin people have been able to enroll since October 1.
Walker says despite the fact he opposes the federal Affordable Care Act, now is not the time to play politics. He says people need to know that they’ll have coverage come January.
“The website's not working, it’s not effectively getting people signed up. And until we can feel confident we’re going to figure out the alternative. Part of it is to look at how long. Do you defer for a month, several months, how long do you do that? But one way or another we’re gonna find a way to make sure that people in Wisconsin at least don’t fall through the cracks,” Walker said Wednesday.
Nearly 80,000 people in Wisconsin were at risk of falling through the cracks.
Under the Walker administration's revamped BadgerCare guidelines, the state will cover adults living at or below the federal poverty level and children living in households earning less than 300% of poverty. The state will refer all others to the federal exchange. Walker has said the state cannot afford to promise coverage for others.
Thursday, the governor said he will recommend to the Legislature that it give people through March to buy a plan on the exchange. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says he expects the Republican majority to concur but not extend the deadline beyond March 31.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on Wednesday called on the governor to accept the federal Medicaid money that would allow Wisconsin to cover all residents living at up to about 133% of poverty.
Some Democrats have accused Walker of being part of the problem because he opted not to create a Wisconsin exchange, but to let the federal government handle the job.
In response, Walker said Wednesday that critics should focus on ironing out the federal site’s problems.
People must enroll in private plans on the federal exchange and pay a premium by Dec. 15 in order to have coverage, as of January. The Affordable Care Act provides subsidies for premiums and co-pays, depending on income. However, many people have not been able to apply because of technical glitches.
So far, fewer than 900 Wisconsin residents have enrolled.
As a result of the problems, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, county leaders and health care advocates have urged Walker to allow people to remain on the program beyond Jan. 1. Again, he says he'll make a decision within a few days.
The state Dept. of Health Services began mailing paper applications this week, to help people bypass the online system.