New State Program Hits Roadblock

MacIver News Service  – [Madison, Wisc…] On Tuesday the Wisconsin Senate delayed action on a bill to create a new health insurance program for more than 20,000 Wisconsin residents currently on a waiting list for a different, more lucrative program.

As reported here earlier, Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma), expressed concerns about the new program in committee. 

In a blog posting, Vinehout later wrote: “The new plan puts the risk on the state and taxpayers – who already can’t afford the recent expansions in Medicaid. According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the state cost overruns for the BadgerCare program are estimated at least $120 million. This is on top of the $600 million budget deficit for the overall Medicaid program.”

When Vinehout and some of her fellow Democratic Senators began to ready amendments to the legislation Tuesday, Russ Decker (D-Schofield), the Senate Majority Leader, maneuvered the bill back to the Senate Organization Committee.

The move delays, rather than derails, Senate action on the legislation.

Senate Republican Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) told the MacIver News Service the concept of BadgerCare Plus Basic, giving the State more flexibility than the private sector,  is fundamentally flawed.

“This plan is exempt from the government health care mandates that are forced on the private sector,” said Fitzgerald. “If there was a level playing field, the private market could do a better job providing the same benefits for less money. Instead, the Senate Democrats are set on a government health care plan that will rely upon taxpayer support.”

As proposed, BadgerCare Plus Basic would cost enrollees $130 per month and supporters argue it is designed to pay for itself without additional tax dollars. The plan covers low income, childless adults, the same population served by BadgerCare Plus Core. The Core Plan was only expected to serve about 40 thousand people during a two-year period, but that number was reached in only a few months.  

The state had to cut off enrollment in October, leaving more than five thousand people on an initial waiting list. A list that quickly surged to more than 23,000.