UPDATE: JFC approves BadgerCare delays - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: JFC approves BadgerCare delays after combative public hearing

MADISON (WKOW) -- About 77,000 people who were scheduled to lose their state-paid health insurance at the end of the year are one step closer to keeping it an extra 90 days.

But that means another group of people without any insurance is one step further away from getting coverage.

The state budget called for all adults who are above the federal poverty level (FPL) to be transitioned out of Wisconsin's BadgerCare program and into the federal health insurance marketplace on January 1st.   But on Monday afternoon, the legislature's Joint Finance Committee took the first steps toward delaying that action, at the request of Governor Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin).

The botched rollout of healthcare.gov caused Gov. Walker to delay the changes, saying he feared thousands wouldn't be able to enroll in private health insurance online by December 31st.

"The fact that we spent $600 to $700 million on a website that's not functioning, that's why we're here today," said Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette), the JFC Co-Chair.

While the delay means those on Badgercare will keep their benefits until April 1st, childless adults who are actually below the FPL - and have been on a waiting list to receive BadgerCare - will have to wait another 90 days.

"You should do both, extend the timeline for people who are on those programs but we ask you also cover the childless adults starting January 1st, 2014," said Helen Marks-Dicks of AARP Wisconsin.

Several health care advocates testified to tell the lawmakers it was wrong to break their original promise to those childless adults who have been waiting.  The advocates said it wouldn't be necessary if the state simply accepted federal Medicaid funds for BadgerCare that are available under the Affordable Care Act. 

"The argument that we're gonna send this federal money back or not take federal money - ridiculous," said Bobby Peterson of ABC For Health.

"Your credibility on these issues, you and Democratic Party credibility on these issues, is gone," fired back Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield).

Republicans killed two Democratic amendments to ensure those childless adults would receive coverage by the first of year.   One would have allowed the state to accept about $86 million in federal Medicaid funds from January 1st through June of 2015.

"It doesn't fulfill the need of childless adults, I give you that, but this is the best we can do today and lets not forget who put us in this situation," said Sen. Alberta Darling, who went on to blame the delay on the Obama administration's botched rollout of healthcare.gov.

But Democrats say the blame should be squarely focused on the legislature.

"We have a decision to make, that we have failed to make again today, to cover people," said Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee).  "And we're blaming it on everything under the sun except what's in front of us today.  The glitch isn't with the federal government, the glitch is in this room."

In the end, JFC approved the bill 11-2, with only Sen. Bob Wirch (D-Pleasant Prairie) and Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine) voting against it.

The full State Assembly will debate the bill and vote on it this Wednesday.


MADISON (WKOW) -- The Legislative Joint Finance Committee approved a measure to delay eligibility changes to Wisconsin's BadgerCare program from January 1st until April 1st Monday afternoon.

The bill passed 11-2 with only Sen. Bob Wirch (D-Pleasant Prairie) and Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine) voting against it.

Health care advocates testified against Gov. Scott Walker's decision to delay changes to the state's BadgerCare health insurance for poor adults, leading to some combative debate with Republican legislators in the Joint Finance Committee Monday morning.

The Governor's plan would allow adults with children who are below 133 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) to keep their BadgerCare coverage until March 31st, instead of being transitioned into the federal health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act on January 1st as was originally planned.

While advocates praised that part of the change, they were quick to point out the delay will keep about 83,000 childless adults who are below 100 percent of the FPL from enrolling in BadgerCare until April 1st.

Bobby Peterson from ABC For Health in Madison strongly voiced his displeasure over the fact that the legislators would not consider accepting expanded federal Medicaid dollars, even temporarily, to ensure the childless adults would still be able to enroll in BadgerCare on January 1st.

The original plan passed by the legislature earlier this year, would have opened up BadgerCare to those childless adults by transitioning the adults with children at 133 percent of FPL into the federal exchange.

But Gov. Walker delayed the transition of adults with children for three months, saying the troubled rollout of healthcare.gov likely meant that not all of those people could find private insurance coverage by the end of the year.

That means the 83,000 childless adults will now have to wait an extra three months to enroll, which Peterson called "ridiculous" because the state could avoid that by accepting expanded federal dollars.

Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) told Peterson it is not the legislature or the Governor's fault, blaming the Obama administration's botched rollout for the delay.  Rep. Kooyenga went on to tell Peterson that the credibility of organization's like his that supported the Affordable Care Act, have lost all credibility on the issue of health care reform.

Capitol Bureau Chief Greg Neumann will have live reports on today's hearing on 27 News at 5 and 6.

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