Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Joint Finance decision on extending health insurance helps some, hurts others

Described by Wisconsin state Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, as the “Ebenezer Scrooge” approach to health care reform, the state’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee voted 11-2 Monday on a proposal that will switch course and force 83,000 childless adults to wait until April 1 for health insurance, while keeping another roughly 80,000 covered through the same date.
The vote, with Mason and Sen. Robert Wirch, D-Pleasant Prairie, voting against it, is the first step to the Republican-controlled legislature addressing the problematic rollout of the Affordable Care Act since its website launched Oct. 1.
Riddled with bugs, it soon became necessary for the federal government to postpone the due date for people to sign up for health coverage, as required by the new law.
That prompted Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, never a fan or supporter of President Barack Obama's approach health care reform, to call a special session of the Legislature to approve measures to delay changing BadgerCare eligibility requirements and other measures that would no longer be needed with the health care insurance exchanges in place.
The bad news from from Monday’s Joint Finance meeting is that 83,000 childless adults earning $11,490 annually will not receive insurance through BadgerCare until April 1, as originally promised by the state. These childless adults could have received coverage, as originally promised, on Jan. 1 if the lawmakers and Walker would have agreed to accept federal money to temporarily expand the Medicaid program.
Had the state taken the federal money to expand Medicaid for the next three months, it would have saved roughly $89 million for the remainder of this budget cycle and covered an additional 83,000 people.
The upside is families earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level who qualify for BadgerCare insurance coverage will continue to receive coverage through April 1.
The Assembly meets Wednesday to vote on the bill and the Senate is scheduled to take up the proposal Dec. 19.
Here are some noteworthy statements that stuck out from Monday's Joint Finance debate:
Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills: “It really breaks my heart that we are being forced to make these choices today, but we are."
Rep. Cory Mason, R-Racine: “The governor can’t have it both ways. He can’t say, ‘I don’t want to take the federal money to set up an exchange’ and then say ‘oh that darn federal exchange’. There is no reason we couldn’t have set up a state exchange.”
Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend: “My only comment is I think we are being a little too negative here. We are going ahead and giving this coverage for another three months. And right now 16 other states aren’t even doing that.”
Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette: “You folks quoting Citizen Action of Wisconsin (on the lower cost of health insurance in Minnesota verses Wisconsin) would be like us quoting information from Americans for Prosperity. It’s just not reliable information.”
Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson: “The fact is Obamacare is a man-made catastrophe of unprecedented proportions.”
Sen. Robert Wirch, D-Pleasant Prairie: “Let’s talk about glitches. I’m a history major. There were glitches with the Social Security rollout … I even think you guys had glitches with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp (rollout).”
Rep. Jon Richards, D-Milwaukee: “The glitch isn’t with the federal government. The glitch is in this room. When it comes to federal money with roads or schools, there is never a problem. But when it comes to the federal government and health care (accepting money to expand Medicaid, the federal government suddenly becomes an unreliable partner? Give me a break.”
Sen. Robert Wirch: “You sure got between the doctor and the patient when you passed all that pro-life legislation. You sure got between the doctor and the patient on that one,” in response to Rep. Kooyenga arguing the Affordable Care Act does not allow some people to keep their current doctor.
Rep. John Richards, D-Milwaukee: “What we are doing here is putting a Band-Aid on a mistake we created.”
Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills: “When you talk broken promises, those broken promises are occurring at federal level. Let us not forget who put us in this situation.”
Rep. Pat Strachota, R-West Bend: “ I don’t speak too often in finance committee …. but we have this issue before us because of what happened with the federal website. We are here due to the failure of the federal government to create a website.”
Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield: “President Obama admitted there were glitches. Then our democratic colleagues are annoyed we are pointing to Washington D.C.”
Rep. John Klenke, R-Green Bay: “Why I don’t want to spend a lot of time pointing at the federal government … we all knew this one thing: The Affordable Care Act would be problematic. For 85 percent of the population it (the existing health insurance system) was working. It was changed for the other 15 percent.”

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