More than 80,000 childless adults with incomes below the federal poverty level gained Medicaid coverage this year under Gov. Scott Walker’s budget plan, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services said Monday.
An additional 62,776 adults, mostly parents with incomes above the poverty level, lost Medicaid coverage. The health department declined to say how many of them signed up for insurance on the federal exchange, saying the data are still being analyzed. A figure could be released in June, Health Services spokeswoman Claire Smith said.
With 81,731 new signups, the net gain of about 19,000 people on BadgerCare, the state’s main Medicaid program, is a mixed picture, said Donna Friedsam, health policy programs director for the UW Population Health Institute.
The large number of childless adults added, many of whom were uninsured, is “great news,” she said.
But the incomplete data on people who lost Medicaid make it hard to draw conclusions about that group because some might end up uninsured, Friedsam said. “We don’t know where they went, whether they ended up picking up insurance as was intended through the Affordable Care Act,” she said.
The federal government said May 1 that 139,815 people in Wisconsin enrolled in plans on the exchange, or marketplace, as of April 19. Subsidies are available on the exchange for people with incomes from 100 percent to 400 percent of the poverty level.
Wisconsin’s Medicaid program previously covered parents up to 200 percent of the poverty level. Childless adults were able to sign up in 2009 until their enrollment was capped, leading to a large waiting list.
Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature decided last year to reduce eligibility to 100 percent of the poverty level, or $19,790 for a family of three, bringing on childless adults below that level and removing adults above it.
Walker and legislators rejected the Medicaid expansion allowed under the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. The federal government would have covered the full cost of expanding Medicaid to 133 percent of the poverty level for several years, later covering at least 90 percent of the cost.
That would have saved Wisconsin $119 million through next year and covered nearly 85,000 more people, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. But Walker and other Republicans said the federal support could fall through.
“Our entitlement reforms make sure Medicaid is a safety net for our state’s neediest citizens and protect Wisconsin’s taxpayers from the uncertainty surrounding the federal government’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act,” Walker said in a statement Monday.
Democrat Mary Burke, Walker’s expected gubernatorial opponent, said in a statement: “Scott Walker’s refusal to bring our tax dollars back to Wisconsin was driven by his own personal politics, not what’s best for taxpayers. Paying more to cover fewer people defies common sense.”
Walker has said his plan will reduce the number of the state’s uninsured by about 225,000, or roughly half.
BadgerCare enrollment is now about 773,000, the same as it was two years ago, said Jon Peacock, research director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. It’s not clear how many people in the state have gained insurance, but it appeared to be well below 225,000, Peacock said.
“We have a long way to go,” Peacock said.
— State Journal reporter
Mary Spicuzza contributed
to this report.