Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Providers Concerned Over Loss Of BadgerCare Coverage For People With Mental Illness

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Credit Tom Magliery (CC-BY-NC-SA) / (Preview)
Providers say people with mental illness are particularly likely to have difficulty changing their health insurance arrangements.
  People with a mental illness may be particularly at risk among the thousands who are losing BadgerCare coverage in Wisconsin. There are concerns that they may find it difficult to navigate the new health insurance exchanges.
About 92,000 people are losing their BadgerCare coverage because of Governor Walker's refusal to accept federal Medicaid expansion money. Gary Bezucha, the CEO of North Central Health Care in Wausau, says it could be a problem for some of his most vulnerable clients. “Had the governor accepted the subsidies for expansion of the Medicaid program, I think it would have had a tremendous impact on a lot of the clients that we serve in the mental health and the substance abuse world.”
North Central Health Care provides inpatient and outpatient mental health services for a three county area in central Wisconsin. Bezucha says many of mentally ill patients are below or just above the federal poverty level. “The problem with mental health is that the disease itself renders it difficult for individuals to maintain the type of job that would yield health care insurance.”
Governor Walker wants the low income patients who are losing BadgerCare to find replacement insurance on the new federal health exchanges. Bezucha says those who are mentally ill may not be up to the task. “I think it's going to be extremely difficult. These are people who have difficulty navigating through complex systems anyway, and I think while a lot of efforts have been made to make the exchanges user friendly, I think it's still going to be difficult.”
Gary Bezucha also worries that former BadgerCare patients will pick the cheapest insurance on the new exchanges, and be saddled with high deductibles and co-pays.

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