Millionaire's children on BadgerCare - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Millionaire's children on BadgerCare

MADISON (WKOW) -- The three children of a Columbus businessman receive their health insurance through the state's plan for low-income families, BadgerCare, despite their father's estimated worth of $20 million.

A 2011 divorce required Michael Eisenga to provide health insurance for his three young boys. The children's mother, Claire Hawthorne told 27 News Eisenga enrolled the children in BadgerCare.

Research director Jon Peacock of the Wisconsin Council on Children & Families said the state uses no income limit when assessing the eligibility of children for BadgerCare.

Peacock said the amount of health insurance premiums for children in BadgerCare is affected by family income.

Court records show Eisenga's net estate was estimated at approximately $20 million. A family court order issued in 2010 stated Eisenga's monthly income at $700,000, but an attorney involved in the case claimed that figure represented Eisenga's annual income.

Records show Eisenga owns real estate and more than a half dozen businesses, including a golf course.

Campaign finance records show Eisenga has contributed a total of more than $28,000 to Governor Walker, Lieutenant Governor Kleefisch and the Republican Party since April 2010.

While 27 News is unaware of millionaires other than Eisenga with children enrolled in BadgerCare, Peacock estimated 2,000 of 450,000 children in the BadgerCare program are from families with incomes at 300 percent of the federal poverty level or higher. Three-hundred percent of FPL is $69,000 for a family of four.

Eisenga has yet to respond to emails and phone calls from 27 News, seeking comment on why he enrolled his children in the state's low-income health insurance program, despite his wealth.

Peacock said a parent of Eisenga's economic situation would receive no state subsidy toward a child's health insurance premium in BadgerCare. But Peacock told 27 News a child's mere participation in BadgerCare would result in a cost-break in comparison to individual health insurance plans in the private market.

"The state uses its leverage and purchasing power to negotiate a rate with managed care plans."

BadgerCare is administered by the state department of health. Spokesperson Beth Kaplan said confidentiality rules may prevent comment on the circumstances of any individual's program participation.

Peacock said participating families in BadgerCare at 200 percent of the federal poverty level receive health insurance plans for their children with less coverage options than the children of families with lower incomes.

Income limits on the participation of children in BadgerCare were lifted in 2008. Peacock said the risk of wealthier parents such as Eisenga enrolling children is outweighed by the benefits of opening the program to all.

"To have that simple message, that all kids are eligible, helps immensely to reach low income families."

While Eisenga's children are enrolled in the department of health's BadgerCare program, he has an adversarial relationship with another state department. The department of revenue lists Eisenga on its web site of Wisconsin's worst tax delinquencies. Revenue officials have filed a court tax warrant against Eisenga, listing unpaid sales taxes, interest and penalties at over $224,000.  


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