A bill introduced several days ago to allow anyone in Wisconsin to purchase insurance through the state's BadgerCare program probably makes too much sense to get through this Legislature.
The "BadgerCare for All" proposal is authored by Rep. Eric Genrich, a Green Bay Democrat, and Sen. LaTonya Johnson, a Democrat from Milwaukee. The two legislators were joined by several other Democrats and Citizen Action of Wisconsin to tout the bill as a common sense answer to help Wisconsinites maintain health care coverage regardless of what happens in Washington.
It's actually a simple proposal and wouldn't cost the state a dime. BadgerCare, around since the Tommy Thompson days, is the state's version of Medicaid and is primarily for the poor, elderly and disabled. However, language in the law would allow any individual to pay the full cost and enroll in BadgerCare, even if they are over the income limit. But the existing law has a list of restrictive requirements that discourage people from trying to buy into the plan.
What the bill would do is change the law that now reads "An individual is eligible to purchase coverage ... at the full per member per month cost of coverage, if ALL of the following apply:" to "if ANY of the following apply:."
By changing that one word, just about anyone in the state would have the ability to purchase BadgerCare, which would be listed on the health insurance exchange as one of the options. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates that the monthly cost of a BadgerCare public option would be $602 for adults and $248 for children. But the premiums would vary by age, location and health status. And those eligible for health care tax credits would receive them with BadgerCare as well.
Citizen Action estimates that those who elect BadgerCare would save an average of 23 percent compared to other policies on the health insurance exchanges. The cost of premiums for a 40-year-old in Green Bay, for instance, even without tax credits, would be 30 percent less than the cheapest silver plan on the exchanges.
The reason for the lower costs, of course, is that Medicaid programs like BadgerCare negotiate for lower health care charges and administrative costs are far less than those of large and often-bloated insurance companies.
This could be win-win for the citizens of Wisconsin, especially those who are having trouble paying for decent insurance coverage. It would also provide a safety net for those who are in danger of being hurt by whatever decision this Congress eventually makes.
We need to be telling our legislators to make this law. Because there's no cost to taxpayers, it would be senseless not to.
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @DaveZweifel
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