The Growing Healthcare/Welfare Rolls in WisconsinBadger Care Basic Could Burden Taxpayers

We are now almost a full month into the latest, new state health care plan and the news is not good. The liberals will have to forgive me for the observation that high numbers of enrollment in a government program are not a sign of “success” but an indication of failure.

Last October, demand for the state’s BadgerCare Core Plan, part of the state’s Medicaid plans, was so great that Wisconsin had to stop enrolling people. Since then about 50,000 people are on a waiting list for the Core plan.

When Governor Jim Doyle announced his BadgerCare Plus Basic program (with it’s double plus ungood name), it was hoped that the new health care program would provide poor adults with health insurance temporarily until the person could be transitioned to the Core plan. The BadgerCare Plus Basic program would be completely self-funded by the $130 monthly premium required for enrollment in the state-run health plan. In return, the program beneficiary would receive limited health insurance.

BadgerCare Plus Basic started coverage for individuals on July 1st. So far 1,681 people were enrolled for July, and 2,426 people were enrolled for August.  (By comparison, the first two months of Cover Florida had 952 total enrollees despite a much higher population to draw from and lower enrollment costs.)

We shouldn’t be surprised at the high number of applicants. The original BadgerCare Core Plan was only supposed to have 24,900 individuals in 2009-10 and 39,500 individuals in 2010-11. As of January there were 63,644 people enrolled in the Core Plan.

The continued high unemployment numbers are surely contributing to the high enrollment numbers. The June jobs report indicated another 1,000 private sector jobs lost. This is in addition to the 7,900 private sector jobs lost in May. Unemployment in the Doyle economy continues to be high at 7.9%. (If you follow the Doyle Administration’s lead from may and use numbers that are not seasonally adjusted, unemployment actually went up .4% in June.)

While some would consider the high number of enrollees a “successful program,” the reality is that every additional person is a reminder of the failures of Governor Jim Doyle and the Democratic-controlled state legislature.

While the plan is supposed to be completely self-funding we won’t know for a few months if the program is running at a deficit. This new program could be another fiscal lump of coal in the next governor’s Christmas stocking. It is likely Governor Jim Doyle has underestimated the costs of the plan just as he underestimated the projected enrollment in the Core plan.

By James Wigderson
Special Guest Perspective for the MacIver Institute

Note, this column reflects corrections made after the Department of Health Services provided the author with  enrollment information.