Group urges expansion of BadgerCare

Advocacy organization wants Walker to accept federal money

BY TERRY FLORES
tflores@kenoshanews.com

A grassroots effort is urging Gov. Scott Walker to expand Badgercare to 170,000 state residents and by accepting $12 billion in federal money over the next 10 years to offer health insurance to more people.

Badgercare, the merger of Medicaid programs in the state, which provides insurance to low-income families and individuals, has more than 146,000 on its waiting list, something the funds provided through federal Affordable Healthcare Act would help to alleviate, according to its advocates. About 700,000 people have access to health care through BadgerCare.

Kevin Kane, health care organizer with the Milwaukee-based Citizen Action of Wisconsin, said Monday the funding is important in helping people who cannot afford private health care. The federal funds would cover 100 percent of the costs in the first three years, and 90 percent in the years that follow.

Over the 10-year period, he said Wisconsin could save an estimated $495 million as the federal government picks up at least 30 percent more of the costs for BadgerCare recipients and uncompensated medical care.

Taxes on businesses, which are now required to provide health insurance, would rise as much as $120 million due to fines for non-compliance, but not if their workers enroll in the state’s health care program, according to the group.

Should Walker accept the money on behalf of the state, the estimated $12 billion would enable the state to extend health care to an additional 211,000 people, according to estimates from a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In Kenosha, 5,363 people would be eligible for coverage if BadgerCare is expanded, based on figures from the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families provided by the group.

Walker yet to decide

Walker is expected to reveal his budget proposal for the next biennium Feb. 20, and a decision on whether to accept the federal money would be addressed then, according to Cullen Werwie, spokesman for the governor.

“The last budget Gov. Walker signed into law increased state taxpayer spending on Medicaid by $1.2 billion — the largest increase in our state's history,” Werwie said, adding that it was also one of the largest increases per capita spending in the nation.

“We're still evaluating the impact future Medicaid expansions would have on Wisconsin citizens,” he said.

Falling through the cracks

Scott Page, 38, a Kenosha native, and Genevive Klimala, 37, of Burlington, however, are among the Wisconsin residents who said they fall through the cracks when it comes to health care coverage.

Page said he was was working in a tool and die shop earning $11 an hour when he ended up training his counterparts in China before his job, and others, were outsourced.

At one point, Page had a job at Snap-on Inc. in Milwaukee where he he earned $12.60 an hour.

Between jobs, he said he ran out of unemployment and was forced to take temporary jobs. Getting through the 90-day probationary period would ensure he could receive health coverage. But each time he approached the 90 days, the company would let him go. The last job Page said he worked was in quality control for a stamping company.

“Rent doesn’t wait,” Page said. “I can’t get (affordable) insurance anywhere. I’m a single white male. I don’t have any children. ... It’s not a good prospect to be a factory worker.”

Denied insurance

Klimala said she has also held various jobs, with her most recent one paying her $9.50 an hour to finish and refinish medical equipment.

While she had insurance through the company, she also was trying to go to school part time. She eventually quit her job and took on loans to attend college full time. Money she had saved from past employment is gone, she said.

Like Page, she is single and has no children but was denied BadgerCare coverage when she applied.

“Because of the way the system is set up, I find I’m really sweating it out,” she said. “An accident or serious injury or broken bone and I’m one illness or broken bone away from financial ruin.”

Page said he tries his best to do something to better himself and to be a productive member of his community.

“There should be a hand up,” he said. “I want to raise a family, and I want to take those risks. I want to be part of the community and help it prosper. To be honest, I am trapped here. Fortunately, for me, I love this place.”

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