Majority Of Wisconsinites Transitioning Off State’s Medicaid Plan Would Have Still Been Ineligible If Wisconsin Had Accepted Federal Expansion Money
On Track To Meet Walker’s Goal Of Reducing Uninsured By 50%
Madison, WI – Governor Scott Walker’s administration released updated information Tuesday on the number of Wisconsinites who have signed up for health insurance under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the number of Wisconsinites who have successfully transitioned from the state’s BadgerCare Plus Medicaid program to receiving health insurance coverage through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace.
According to the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI), as of June 1 of this year, over 104,000 Wisconsinites signed up for a health insurance plan using the federal exchange. The 104,466 policies will actually cover 133,655 Wisconsinites.
The Insurance Commissioner’s office surveyed Wisconsin insurers to “understand the number of Wisconsinites that have enrolled in coverage.” The state’s 133,000 Wisconsinites covered number is different from a recently released federal estimate that there were approximately 140,000 Wisconsin enrollments. Wisconsin officials believe their number is more accurate than the federal government’s number.
The Insurance Commissioner’s office did not have an estimate on how many of the 133,000 were previously uninsured. That number will not be known until the 2015 census, according to OCI Deputy Insurance Commissioner Dan Schwartzer.
At the same press conference, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) released data showing that “97,509 more Wisconsinites living in poverty have health care coverage through the BadgerCare Plus due to Governor Scott Walker’s entitlement reforms.”
Kevin Moore, Deputy Secretary at DHS, characterized the 97,509 as a “significant increase” and believes they are on track to meet the Governor’s goal of reducing by half the number of uninsured adults in Wisconsin. “These were folks that were living under 100% of the federal poverty level and as a part of the Governor’s reform, he wanted to make sure that a safety net was there for these individuals,” Moore said.
DHS also released information on Wisconsinites who needed to transition from BadgerCare Plus to the federal Health Insurance Marketplace after eligibility requirements were changed. When Governor Walker last year decided to turn down federal money to expand Medicaid eligibility because of the federal government’s unsustainable high debt, he returned Wisconsin’s Medicaid program eligibility back to 100% of federal poverty level and vowed to help those above 100% to transition to the federal Health Insurance Marketplace. DHS worked with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid on a data match project to “track the number of people who made the transition to securing coverage through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace,” according to DHS.
The data match project found that 62,776 Wisconsinites have transitioned off of the state’s Medicaid plan, including 18,801 individuals who have selected a qualified health plan through the exchange. Over 34,000 of the individuals who transitioned off the state’s Medicaid plan had incomes above 133% of federal poverty level, meaning that they were ineligible to stay on Medicaid “regardless of whether or not Wisconsin had accepted the Medicaid expansion.”
Dave Jensen, local health insurance expert and Editorial Director at HCTrends, commented that “It’s great that the health insurance exchange and Gov. Walker’s decision to expand Medicaid to childless adults living below the poverty level made health insurance available to more than 200,000 people. Hopefully, this will improve the quality of their lives and ease the charity care burden of health care providers.”
Jensen did warn that “going forward, we will be interested to see if premiums will remain affordable and whether small employers will discontinue coverage.”
The department sent out over 200,000 letters to Wisconsinites needing to transition off of BadgerCare Plus and placed more than 300,000 follow-up phone calls to these individuals. These outreach efforts will continue according to the department.
Schwartzer and Moore noted that this was the second month of full data at the federal level and that there will be more updates in the future. Moore dismissed concerns about the Medicaid program running a deficit, noting that the increased costs were 2% of the overall Medicaid budget and that the deficit would be “handled internally.”