WISCONSIN: Welfare Reform Leaves More Needy Kids
"Wisconsin's welfare reform efforts have reduced the number of children enrolled in safety-net programs such as Medicaid," according to preliminary results of a statewide study released yesterday by the Center for the Advancement of Urban Children at the Medical College of Wisconsin. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the study is "the first major attempt to quantify the effects on children of the state's cutting-edge welfare reform" effort, known as Wisconsin-Works (W-2). Dr. Earnestine Willis, a pediatrician and director of the center, said that the study's "preliminary data" showed that "the safety nets of Medicaid and food stamps have not been maintained."
According to the Journal Sentinel, the study was conducted at the request of the Ad Hoc Committee on Wisconsin Works, a group of "100 elected officials and child advocates." The study was an attempt to "track children who are losing public benefits" and "determine whether they are being covered by other benefits, and whether their parents have family-sustaining jobs." The study "found that 54,000 fewer Wisconsin children, birth to 18, are covered by Medicaid ... compared with three years ago," a 24% overall decline. It also found that the "number of children whose families received food stamps dropped 64,024, or 37% -- from 174,638 to 110,614," and the number of children receiving Women, Infants and Children Supplemental Feeding Program benefits "dropped 4,429, or 5%, from 87,037 to 82,608." The ad hoc committee decided Monday to "ask the state to develop a broad system of accountability on W-2." It wants "regular accounts from the state on the level of jobs and services provided [to] families and children in W-2." Final findings of the study will be released on June 8. Willis said one "limitation" of her analysis is "that it did not show how many children were added to private insurance carriers."
Badger Care Can Help
Joe Leean, secretary of the state Department of Health and Family Services, said "some families mistakenly thought that when they were dropped" from the state's welfare program, "that meant they were no longer eligible for Medicaid." He also said the findings demonstrate "the urgent need for Badger Care, the proposed state health insurance for working-poor families." Leean estimated that 25,000 children from low-income families "would be eligible for Badger Care -- and 20,000 parents." Families earning less than 150% of the federal poverty level would be eligible for the program, which was created under the federal Child Health Insurance Program, or Kiddiecare initiative. Those making up to 200% of poverty would be eligible for coverage with some copayments or premiums. Leean also said the 25,000 number for Badger Care eligibility was only an estimate "and if 45,000 children needed" the program, "they would get it" (Huston, 5/12).