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Walker was warned on foolhardy BadgerCare plan: Our View

With Obamacare launch disaster, Medicaid decision looks worse than ever.

2:51 PM, Oct. 19, 2013  |  Comments
Efforts to help people sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act have stalled as a government website malfunctioned. This risks leaving 92,000 former BadgerCare recipients uninsured.
Efforts to help people sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act have stalled as a government website malfunctioned. This risks leaving 92,000 former BadgerCare recipients uninsured.
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The rollout of the Affordable Care Act's health insurance marketplace has been a disaster, with persistent problems on the government-run website www.healthcare.gov that have made signing up for private insurance through the program, also known as Obamacare, nearly impossible.

In Wisconsin, these problems have been compounded by Gov. Scott Walker's decisions not to accept federal Medicaid funds and to devise a system that took 92,000 people who had been receiving BadgerCare, the state's name for the Medicaid insurance program for poor households, and pushed them - prematurely, it would appear - into the new private marketplace.

It is fair to say few of the law's supporters expected the launch of the website to go as badly as it has. Daily Herald Media reported this week that fewer than 50 people in Wisconsin were able to sign up in the first week, and it's not clear that things have gotten much better since then. There is no other way to say it: That is a disgraceful failure.

But it is not fair to say that no one predicted serious difficulties in transferring so many low-income households from BadgerCare to an untested system for buying private insurance. Earlier this year a chorus of voices warned against, well, exactly what is happening now.

"Our concern is there is too much uncertainty and too much risk to try to push these people into something (the exchange) that does not exist today," Wisconsin Hospital Association President Steve Brenton told the Daily Herald Media Editorial Board in April.

"We see no evidence at all that this health insurance exchange is going to be up and smoothly running," Wisconsin Medical Society CEO Rick Abrams said in the same interview. "We're very, very concerned that we're going to take a stable health care delivery system in Wisconsin and destabliize it, and that's not good for anyone."

According to Walker, the policy cutting all households above poverty from BadgerCare was intended to reduce dependence on government while also cutting in half the number of uninsured in the state as more people signed up for private insurance.

Right now, Wisconsin is at serious risk of seeing its number of uninsured increase instead - and with it all the health problems and costs that put pressure on the system.

Blame the Obama administration for the failure, so far, of its website. But blame Wisconsin Republicans for designing a system they know would place enormous new pressure on an untested system that was part of a reform they themselves opposed.

The Legislature is in session. Lawmakers still can pass the law health care experts recommended in April, which would delay by one year the changes to BadgerCare eligibility. It would restore stability to the system, and it would protect nearly 100,000 people who today are caught in limbo, fearing that they'll lose their access to care entirely.

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