Wisconsin Senate to consider delay in state Medicaid changes

MILWAUKEE Thu Dec 19, 2013 7:00am EST

MILWAUKEE Dec 19 (Reuters) - Wisconsin lawmakers on Thursday are expected to consider delaying by three months a plan to shift thousands of people from a state Medicaid program onto the federal health insurance marketplace that has been plagued by technical problems.

Under the proposal backed by Republican Governor Scott Walker, about 72,000 people now due to be shifted from Wisconsin's BadgerCare Medicaid program on Jan. 1 would be allowed to stay on until the end of March.

The Republican-led Senate is scheduled to take up the proposal on Thursday, three weeks after the Republican-led Assembly approved the proposal. If the Senate passes the proposal, it goes to Walker for his signature.

The HealthCare.gov website for the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, had a rocky start on Oct. 1. Wisconsin officials said only 877 residents were able to sign up for the federal healthcare exchange that month.

Earlier in December, federal officials said the site was performing markedly better after a self-imposed deadline to fix the portal.

Walker called a special session to consider the delay, which would give the BadgerCare recipients more time to enroll in the federal marketplace for health insurance.

Wisconsin was one of 36 states that chose not to create a state exchange, instead relying on the federal government to create an exchange where people can shop for health insurance.

Walker's state budget signed in June tightened the income qualifications for BadgerCare to 100 percent of the federal poverty level from 200 percent, pushing 72,000 people toward the federal health insurance program.

At the same time, the plan expanded BadgerCare eligibility to about 83,000 childless adults with household incomes less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level. The measure lawmakers are considering in the special session would require those adults to wait until April 1 to enroll in BadgerCare. (Editing by Eric Walsh)

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