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Rhoades: Walker's approach makes insurance available to all (column)

Gov. Scott Walker's unique Wisconsin approach helps provide affordable health care.

12:19 AM, Oct. 28, 2013  |  Comments
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For the first time in our state's history, every person in poverty can be covered under the same Medicaid benefits. No limited benefit package. No waiting list. No enrollment cap. This approach will reduce Wisconsin's uninsured rate by half and ensure all Wisconsin residents have access to affordable health insurance coverage. Wisconsin residents above the poverty level now have new opportunities in the commercial health care market.

A recent issue paper published by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured estimated the number of poor uninsured, nonelderly adults who are likely to be without coverage due to states not expanding their Medicaid program under the federal Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

Of 26 states listed, Wisconsin is the only state with no gap in access to affordable coverage.

The Wisconsin model is based on what will provide the best outcomes for Wisconsin in the long run, not on obtaining short-term financial assistance from the federal government.

The Wisconsin model is not only unique with regard to our policy decisions; our outreach strategy regarding health care options in 2014 is also different. We are focusing our efforts on a sustained, grassroots outreach campaign - creating 11 regional networks pulling together interested stakeholders to coordinate efforts to educate their friends, neighbors and relatives about their public and private health care options beginning in 2014.

In late September, the Department of Health Services began sending out informational notices to current BadgerCare Plus members letting them know they may be transitioning to the federal exchange. The purpose for sending out this informational notice was to allow current members to report a change impacting their eligibility and possibly keep them on the program, as well as to allow members whose incomes are not likely to be eligible for BadgerCare Plus in 2014 as much time as possible to research their health care options and apply through the federal exchange.

We have begun making proactive phone calls to all households receiving one of the informational notices to ensure the letter was received as well as to confirm that the person understood the letter and is taking action, either by making sure his or her information is up to date with our department in order to ensure continued eligibility for BadgerCare Plus or by applying for coverage through the federal health insurance marketplace.

The Office of the Commissioner of Insurance and my department have also hosted 16 town hall meetings across Wisconsin where information has been presented about the Affordable Care Act and BadgerCare Plus changes. We've met with editorial boards and reporters from many of our state's daily newspapers, including Daily Herald Media's, as well as TV and radio stations, to ensure the people across our state have accurate information about the Wisconsin model and how we are complying with the Affordable Care Act.

Gov. Scott Walker's goals and our approach have put Wisconsin in a position to better manage its finances in the long term, while creating a system where every Wisconsin individual and family has access to affordable health insurance either through the marketplace or through Medicaid. The Wisconsin model ensures people in poverty are covered while also realizing the instability that exists with regard to federal funding, which could not be more relevant given recent headlines.

The Wisconsin model preserves Medicaid as a vital safety net for our state's neediest and provides long-term protection for Wisconsin taxpayers. These reforms will continue to move Wisconsin forward.

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