BadgerCare recipients who make too much money to remain in the program next year will receive letters this week from Gov. Scott Walker's administration letting them know that their coverage is about to end and that they can shop for insurance through the new online exchange.
The letters are being sent to more than 56,000 households where one or more person is expected to lose their coverage at the end of the year, although those who are getting kicked off won't get the final notice until December.
Ultimately, about 92,000 people are expected to lose Medicaid coverage and instead have to shop for federally subsidized private insurance through the exchange, or marketplace. The enrollment period for that begins on Oct. 1, with coverage starting in January.
Walker proposed, and the Republican Legislature earlier this year approved, new income limits that restrict BadgerCare coverage to adults earning less than 100 percent of poverty. That is $11,500 for an individual or $23,550 for a family of four. Until the change, adults earning up to 200 percent of poverty were eligible.
Walker rejected federal money under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law to pay for coverage those who earn up to 138 percent of poverty. However, Walker's budget did provide additional money to eliminate a waiting list for Medicaid coverage for childless adults who earn less than 100 percent of poverty. That is expected to add about 82,000 people to the program.
The changes in Wisconsin do not affect pregnant women and those who are elderly, blind or disabled.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who supports the federal overhaul law, sent Walker a letter Monday calling on him to do more to communicate with those who face losing Medicaid coverage.
"Surely receiving your communication will create uncertainty, confusion, and anxiety for these families," Baldwin wrote Walker. She asked him to engage in more personal and direct follow-up with those affected, including placing phone calls and partnering with local governments and organizations that can help those affected.
Walker's spokesman Tom Evenson had no immediate comment on Baldwin's letter.
Walker's letter will be sent in in five batches, one per day this week. It is going to 56,552 households, but more than one person at each address may lose coverage, according to Department of Health Services spokeswoman Stephanie Smiley.
The letter says that another communication will be coming in December letting them know who exactly in their household is affected and how their eligibility will change. Those losing coverage they must apply for insurance through the marketplace by Dec. 15.
Waiting until December for a personalized notice that someone is losing coverage is not soon enough, Baldwin said.
"These families cannot afford to pay for any shortcomings you are creating in not seamlessly moving these Wisconsinites from BadgerCare to the new Marketplace," Baldwin wrote to Walker.
On Sunday, the Wisconsin Counties Association passed a resolution renewing its support for the state accepting federal money to pay covering those who earn up to 138 percent of poverty. Walker has steadfastly refused to reconsider his approach, which the Legislature endorsed, rejecting that money and reducing Medicaid eligibility to 100 percent of poverty. Walker has been an outspoken advocate for repealing the entire Affordable Care Act.