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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

 2:24 PM 

Senate begins debate on BadgerCare cleanup bill

Senate Democrats have begun debate on a bill to make technical changes to the BadgerCare program with an amendment that would move up the date when some poor residents will qualify for the program.

The current bill changes the dates for certain income standards for those applying for BadgerCare and makes other changes to prepare for the eligibility changes in BadgerCare set to take effect on April 1. At that point, those making more than 100 percent of the poverty level would be pushed off of Medicaid and pointed toward the federal exchanges. Those childless adults making less than 100 percent of the poverty level would be able to enroll in BadgerCare.

Gov. Scott Walker had originally planned that change to take effect Jan. 1, but pushed it back due to problems with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. Dems have been pushing for the state to allow its poorest residents to go ahead and join the program now rather than waiting until April, when the other changes take effect.

Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said the eligibility changes were necessary to ensure no one was left in limbo because of the timing and to ensure that the state's Medicaid program is in compliance with the feds.

However, Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, said the extra time could allow the state's poorest residents to find proper health care providers and ensure they have coverage as soon as possible.

"Because you become eligible for Medicaid on a certain date... does not mean you get a chance to see a provider on that day or the day after," Cullen said.

Darling said Cullen's amendment would alter the agreement with the feds and that such a change just isn't feasible.

When Cullen responded that the feds would want the state to make this change or accept Medicaid expansion funds, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald responded by tearing into Dems, saying the party was not facing up to the failures of Obamacare and its connection to the present Medicaid issues.

"And that's what this is today," Fitzgerald said, referencing the BadgerCare cleanup bill. "One more request from the Obama administration to tweak something to make sure people don't fall through the cracks."

"A little humility from the party that screwed this up would be very much welcome at this point," Fitzgerald said, which prompted an "ooh" from Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, who briefly stood up to challenge Fitzgerald's comment.



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