Working Families Speak Out as Joint Finance Discusses Kicking Thousands off BadgerCare
As DHS sets Wisconsin Up for a No-Win Situation, Coalition Urges True Cost Savings and Not Cost Shifting
Madison – Later today, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) is scheduled to discuss whether to accept or reject a proposal from Department of Health Services (DHS) to increase costs, make eligibility and enrollment more difficult, and decrease benefits for families in the BadgerCare and Medicaid program. With this JFC hearing not offering the opportunity for public input, the Save BadgerCare Coalition is holding a press event this morning to highlight the stories of real Wisconsin families who are set up to lose their health care and economic security under the DHS plan.
Despite holding two town hall meetings where attendees overwhelmingly expressed opposition, anxiety and frustration over the impending cuts, DHS continued to rush through its plans to kick working families off of their health care coverage, a decision that will be disastrous for working families and Wisconsin’s small businesses.
“Working families across Wisconsin have been denied sufficient time and information to digest the drastic changes being proposed,” said Sara Finger, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health and Save BadgerCare Coalition Coordinator. “The public hearings arranged by the Department were insufficient in answering the scores of questions on the proposals and truly addressing enrollee concerns. This was an irresponsible and disrespectful way to make these kinds of critical policy decisions.”
In lieu of more public input opportunities offered by the Walker Administration, Democratic legislative leaders are offering a public hearing today from 10:30am – 1:30am in Room 400 NE of the Capitol, so the voices of working families can be heard.
In passing the Budget Repair Bill last spring, the legislature granted DHS unprecedented authority to make changes to Medicaid and BadgerCare with limited legislative oversight. However, it took until September 30th for DHS to release any details of their plans to cut half a billion dollars. Wisconsinites who depend on BadgerCare were asked for input on proposals lacking a significant amount of detail, and according to scoring by a well-known measure of health literacy, more difficult to read than the Harvard Law Review.
With this proposal, DHS put themselves, and over 1.1 million Wisconsinites who depend on BadgerCare, in a no-win situation. Before the Joint Finance Committee today is a waiver of the “maintenance of effort” provisions of the federal health reform law, which restricts state’s ability to reduce eligibility or made changes that suppress enrollment. If this waiver is not granted by December 31, 2011, the budget states that DHS must cut approximately 53,000 adults off the program. Both the waiver, and the action mandated by the budget if the waiver is not approved, would increase the numbers of uninsured Wisconsinites – which shifts costs and increases uncompensated care.
The Coalition finds it unacceptable that these remarkably effective—and cost-effective—programs are at risk of being gutted on such short notice, without seriously entertaining alternative methods for increasing efficiencies and revenues, and finding cost savings. There are better alternatives in the legislature to remove the impossible bind DHS has put themselves in, with regard to the timeline and elimination of coverage for 53,000 adults. Save BadgerCare will continue to participate in public hearings with legislators across the state—including the one being held today at the Capitol, in Eau Claire this Friday, and in Wausau, Oshkosh, and Green Bay in the coming weeks—to solicit further public input and provide an opportunity for residents to learn more about the proposed cuts.