May 25, 2011
Media Contact: Bob Jacobson
Save BadgerCare Statement on Joint Finance Committee’s Medicaid Vote
Drastic Cuts with Limited Legislative Oversight Will Lead to More Uninsured Wisconsinites
The Save BadgerCare Coalition was extremely disappointed by the Joint Finance Committee’s vote Tuesday evening to clear the way for devastating cuts to Medicaid and BadgerCare Plus, which will be made by the Department of Health Services (DHS) with little legislative oversight.
The Committee approved $466 million in unspecified cuts to Wisconsin’s Medicaid programs. While the exact nature of the cuts remains unknown, they will almost certainly make it harder for people to enroll and stay in these programs, resulting in a dramatic increase in the number of uninsured people in the state.
One of the anticipated outcome of this vote includes increased BadgerCare premiums, which a new analysis by Georgetown University’s Center on Children and Families has shown will result in tens of thousands of people losing their coverage. Other likely changes include higher copays, more restrictions on the range of services covered, and more red tape for applicants and existing participants. All of these changes will result in people losing coverage.
The Save BadgerCare Coalition has urged legislators not to abdicate their responsibility for deciding which Wisconsin children and families will be able to count on Medicaid and BadgerCare Plus. Unfortunately, the Committee agreed to allow DHS to make unspecified cuts and policy changes—including changes that supersede state statutes-- with minimal oversight from the Joint Finance Committee. The full legislature will be shut out of the process entirely.
In addition to the negative impact on the health of Wisconsin’s kids and families, a sharp increase in uninsured people will result in increased use of expensive emergency services, force hospitals to provide more uncompensated care, and consequently drive up the cost of health care for everybody.
“The decision to approve deep, unspecified cuts to Medicaid and BadgerCare is extremely worrisome, because it will result in more people going without health insurance and will shift costs onto other health care consumers,” said Wisconsin Council on Children and Families Executive Director Ken Taylor. “Wisconsinites need and deserve a very different approach, one that prioritizes our shared responsibility for children and families.”
The Save BadgerCare Coalition consists of health care providers, public policy experts, aging advocacy groups, disability rights advocates, consumers and the faith community working together to sustain Medicaid and BadgerCare and to ensure health insurance for Wisconsin families. For more information regarding the Save BadgerCare Coalition visit www.savebadgercare.org.
Ken Taylor column: Who should make Medicaid policy decisions?Lawmakers will get a second chance this spring to answer an extremely important question: Should the laws that determine which children and families get the health care they need be written by the men and women we send to Madison to represent us, or by an unelected state administrator?
What's at stake is who will have the power and responsibility to decide which Wisconsin kids and families will be able to count on Medicaid and BadgerCare Plus, and whether the decision maker(s) will be accountable to Wisconsin voters. If the governor's budget takes effect, Wisconsin will cut more than $1 billion from health care during the next two years, yet the budget is largely silent on how the health care cuts will be made or who will feel the pain.
That's because the budget repair bill lets lawmakers escape accountability for those decisions, by shifting responsibility for critical policy choices to the head of the Department of Health Services. That legislation gives the DHS secretary sweeping power to change the law on who is eligible for health coverage, what care they get and what care they're denied, and how much they will have to pay.
Because the budget repair bill gives the DHS secretary nearly boundless power and cuts legislators out of the process, the budget bill doesn't shed any light on how the cost-cutting will be achieved. The Walker administration has hinted at some of the changes they will make but has not provided any details.
Informed observers expect that DHS will propose restrictions that will result in a large increase in the number of uninsured Wisconsinites. That means moving away from cost-effective preventive care, increased costs as newly uninsured kids and families are forced to rely on expensive emergency room care and higher premiums for families and small businesses, as doctors and hospitals shift costs for uncompensated care to patients with private insurance.
If nothing changes, legislators won't have to approve the policy changes, and they won't have to insist that the secretary explain how the cost-savings will be achieved. That means voters like you and me lose our right to participate in an informed debate about the consequences of the agency's plans and alternative options to balance the budget.
Because the budget repair bill is stalled in the courts, legislators likely will have to vote again on who is responsible for writing our state's health care laws. They should take advantage of that opportunity to make a better, more responsible, more accountable decision.
No one man or woman should be trusted with unchecked power, especially over something as important as the health of Wisconsin children and families. Our lawmakers should fulfill their responsibility to make Wisconsin's laws. At the very least, legislators should require that any rules proposed by DHS that conflict with state statutes have to be approved by the full Legislature.
The governor's proposal puts the health care of more than 1 million Wisconsinites at risk, and it threatens to roll back more than a decade of successful bipartisan efforts to reduce the number of uninsured Wisconsinites. If legislators give up their authority for writing state health care laws, Wisconsin's democracy will be weakened. In effect, the Legislature will be stripping our rights as citizens to hold policymakers accountable for decisions that affect us. The men and women we elect to represent us in the Legislature should not abdicate their law-making responsibilities.