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Health Plan Analysis

Sunday, March 22, 2009

State To Expand BadgerCare Plus Despite Economic Turmoil
Despite a higher-than-expected budget deficit of $6.6 billion over the next two years, Wisconsin state officials are going ahead with the planned launch of a new state-sponsored safety net option for the uninsured. Wisconsin’s budget shortfall, which is $1.6 million more than calculated at the beginning of the budget process, threatened the planned July 1 launch of its BadgerCare Plus Core Plan For Childless Adults. Applications for the program will be accepted beginning June 15, with benefits beginning no earlier than July 15. But even as lawmakers approved the program’s expansion, they have also directed the state’s Department of Health Services to find $500 million in budget savings over the next two years, which may push the state to further expand the use of managed care in its public programs. As many as 41,000 adults could be added as a result of the expansion, part of Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle’s plan to develop near-universal care in Wisconsin, with enrollment spread out among 16 HMOs. The eco- nomic crisis makes such a program even more imperative, as unemployment continues to climb and as thousands stand to exhaust their COBRA subsidy, which is limited to nine months. Gov. Doyle and lawmakers are using a 1.4 percent assessment on hospitals’ patient revenue, a move geared toward capturing more federal Medicaid matching funds. According to state documents, the initiative is expected to bring an additional $900 million in federal funds to Wisconsin over the next three years. Because the state’s Medicaid investment is matched with federal dollars, it is anticipated that every $1 of tax revenue would generate $1.65 for Wisconsin hospitals. This would allow for a Medicaid reimbursement increase, which will be some welcome relief to area hospitals.
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