Joint Finance Committee

State Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, co-chairs the Joint Committee on Finance that decided to extend BadgerCare.

Jane Thompson/Cardinal file photo

The Joint Committee on Finance voted Monday on Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to extend the deadline for BadgerCare participants to transition to federal exchanges.

After the Obama administration prolonged the federal deadline, Walker announced Nov. 22 he would he like to see Wisconsin postpone its own deadline to align with the federal extension. Walker said the new state deadline would allow those scheduled to move off BadgerCare more time to find new health care plans.

Extending BadgerCare would open a health care coverage gap for 80,000 childless young adults waiting for coverage under BadgerCare. In a public hearing Monday, several people defended citizens trapped in the potential health care gap.

Helen Dicks, an advocacy director for AARP and Bobby Peterson, the executive director of ABC for Health, testified during the special session that while Wisconsin’s plan was unique because it would eliminate a coverage gap once implemented, an extension would hurt Wisconsinites who were promised health insurance by Jan. 1.

Peterson said in the special session state legislators were playing a “perverse game of trading places,” adding there are “people [without health care] waiting in an endless line that could fill Lambeau Field and Camp Randall.”

To prevent 80,000 people from falling into the coverage hole, state Rep. Jon Richards, D-Milwaukee, proposed an amendment that would cover childless adults.

State Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, pointed out that the extension of BadgerCare and exclusion of childless adults for three months is “not an either or decision.” Mason also said he saw no other reason for Walker not to extend coverage to the 80,000 adults, other than Walker making a strategic political move as a potential presidential candidate.

State Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, said in the special session the decision to not extend coverage to childless adults was a “philosophical one” hinging on the fact that taxpayers’ dollars would be used for “people not working as hard as they could be.”

Ultimately, the amendment to cover childless adults failed 3-10. Both Senate and Assembly bills to extend the BadgerCare deadline passed 11-2, keeping current enrollees on through March but leaving 80,000 Wisconsinites without coverage for the next three months.