WISCONSIN: HCFA Denies Approval For BadgerCare
"The federal government has killed ... [Wisconsin]'s proposed BadgerCare health insurance program for low-income families by insisting that it be an entitlement program, which the Legislature did not authorize," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. After months of negotiating with the federal government, state officials expressed frustration that 49,000 low income families in Wisconsin, including 22,700 children, will not have access to the health care program as planned. BadgerCare would have received $47.6 million in federal funding. Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) had proposed that the state allocate $16.6 million for the plan, provided that "the state's share of BadgerCare funding [not] be open-ended, which it would if BadgerCare were considered an entitlement program." While the state designed the program with a participation cap according to the availability of Medicaid funding, Nancy-Ann Min DeParle, head of the Health Care Financing Administration, contends that a cap "is inconsistent with the entitlement nature of the Medicaid program" (Rinard 8/20).
Not That Flexible
The AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that while HCFA has recently been more flexible with Medicaid funds to encourage states to develop Kiddiecare programs, BadgerCare was different because it combined "that money with federal money for medical insurance under Medicaid." The consolidation would have created a program targeted at entire families. In a letter to state officials, DeParle emphasized that "federal guidelines forbid states from using children's insurance funding for adults" (Polt, 8/20). DeParle notes that although she is committed to resolving the issues and "mov[ing] forward with approval of the entire program," the BadgerCare proposal must undergo revision before winning the agency's approval. However, Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services Secretary Joe Leean, said, "They have essentially misled us at almost every turn on their commitment to providing a health care plan for low-income families" (Rinard, 8/20). Leean noted that in January, the Health Care Financing administration indicated that the state had an "approvable package" (Chicago Tribune, 8/20).
Not Very Happy
Gov. Thompson "blasted" the Clinton administration for refusing the Medicaid waivers that were necessary to implement BadgerCare. "The Clinton administration tells us we must cover Viagra, but it won't let us provide vital health coverage to hard-working, low income families and their children," challenged Thompson. He added, "The president's priorities are completely out of touch with the needs of families." Although state officials "declare BadgerCare dead," U.S. Rep. Tom Barret (D-WI) has vowed to negotiate a resolution. "We just have to keep working at it. ... We can't lose sight of the goal, which is providing health care for low income people," Barret said (Rinard, 8/20).