Health care advocates are asking Gov. Scott Walker to explain what he will do with 77,000 adults being shifted off Medicaid at the end of the year if those people are not able to get coverage by then on the new health insurance exchange.
Walker said in February that adults on Medicaid, or BadgerCare, who make more than the poverty level will have to switch to insurance on the federal exchange Jan. 1.
In late September, the state notified 77,000 people, most of them parents, that they might be affected. But letters letting people know for sure won’t be sent until Nov. 23, when the state expects to be ready to use new federal criteria to determine eligibility.
People must enroll on the exchange, or online marketplace, by Dec. 15 to get coverage by Jan. 1. Enrollment started Oct. 1 but has been greatly hampered by glitches on healthcare.gov, the exchange’s website.
Federal officials have said the website is improving and will work smoothly by Nov. 30. Enrollment continues through the end of March, but coverage doesn’t begin until two weeks or longer after people sign up.
“We are concerned that this short window does not allow enough time for all 77,000 custodial parents who are losing BadgerCare eligibility to complete the process of enrolling in qualified health plans via the marketplace,” advocacy groups said in a letter to Walker on Thursday.
“These concerns are magnified by the healthcare.gov technical glitches that have hindered enrollment thus far.”
The letter asks Walker to spell out his contingency plans if enrollment on the exchange continues to be difficult or if the federal government creates conditions under which Walker’s plan can’t be implemented.
Claire Smith, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health Services, said Walker’s plan for Jan. 1 remains in effect. “We made fiscally responsible decisions to leverage the solutions that the federal government made available to states,” she said.
“Individuals who do not apply and enroll in a health insurance plan in the marketplace by December 15 will not have coverage beginning January 1, 2014,” she said. “However, the open enrollment period for the marketplace has been extended for this first year, ending on March 31, 2014. Individuals will have until then to enroll.”
“If someone enrolled on December 16, 2013, their coverage would begin in February,” Smith said. “Our goal is to have uninterrupted coverage for members, so we are pushing for individuals to enroll by December 15.”
The letter from advocates says many of the 77,000 people could end up uninsured. That could “further strain the resources of community health centers, emergency departments and other health providers, and the millions of health care consumers in Wisconsin shouldering the health care costs of the uninsured,” it says.
The letter was sent by six groups: Community Advocates Public Policy Institute, Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, Mental Health America of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Primary Health Care Association, Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health and ABC for Health.
Walker opposes the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, which relies on the exchanges to increase coverage for people who don’t get insurance through their jobs or programs such as Medicaid. Like most governors, Walker chose to have the federal government run the state’s exchange.
Walker also rejected federal funding to expand Medicaid to everyone earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Instead, he’s shifting the 77,000 parents off Medicaid and allowing about 82,000 childless adults earning less than the poverty level to enroll in Medicaid.