New BadgerCare Legislation Is Added to January 8th JFC Agenda

Tuesday, January 7, 2014 at 7:29 PM by

Bill Implements Agreement between DHS and Federal Officials   

The Joint Finance Committee announced today that it is adding a new BadgerCare bill to the committee’s January 8th agenda.  As I explained in a Dec. 31 WCCF blog post, an agreement reached by the Dept. of Health Services (DHS) and federal officials requires a few changes to the Special Session bill that was signed into law shortly before the holidays.   

  • The new federal standards relating to income and family size (referred to as Modified Adjusted Gross Income or MAGI) will be applied to new applications from parents and caretakers beginning on Feb.1 (rather than April 1).
  • The reduction in eligibility to 100% of the poverty level will also apply to new applicants on Feb. 1, (but neither of these changes will apply until April 1 to people who enroll in BadgerCare before Feb 1).
  • The improvement in health care benefits for kids over 200% of the poverty level – from replacing the current Benchmark plan with Standard plan benefits – will also take place in February rather than April. 

I have mixed feelings about the bill.  It’s disappointing that fewer parents and caretakers will be covered by BadgerCare in February and March.  According to the LFB analysis, the bill will reduce BadgerCare participation by about 1,300 adults in February and 2,500 in March.  On the positive side, the bill speeds up the elimination of the Benchmark Plan for children and hastens the implementation of the MAGI standards for new applications.  Accelerating the MAGI change for new applicants is important because the Special Session bill has the effect right now that neither the state nor federal computer system is able to make correct eligibility decisions. 

I was anticipating that the brief reduction in the enrollment of parents and caretakers that results from the new bill would add to the $23 million in GPR savings from the Special Session bill.  However, the LFB says that the fiscal effect will be “minimal” because much of the savings will be offset by the cost of providing Standard plan coverage two months earlier for children over 200% of the poverty level.    

Although the fiscal impact of passing the bill is minimal, the LFB analysis adds that there would be a significant cost to the state of not passing the bill.  Under the terms of the agreement, the state wouldn’t get federal cost-sharing for the affected adult population until DHS implements MAGI rules.

In addition to the BadgerCare bill, the Finance Committee will take up a number of “section 13.10” budget issues, including funding for W-2, WEDC and DPI (see this Jan. 7th blog post about that agenda and the W-2 issue, and this Journal Sentinel article about the WEDC funding), as well as seven mental health bills that we summarize in today’s WCCF blog post.

Jon Peacock

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