Walker calls special session on Medicaid

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Associated Press | November 15, 2013

MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker called a special legislative session Thursday to extend the deadline for moving 77,000 people off Medicaid until April, saying they need more time to sign up for private insurance through the problematic online federal health care exchange.

Walker, a Republican, blasted the federal rollout during a news conference, calling the launch "abysmal" and saying he wants to make sure everyone who needs more time to find coverage gets it.

"We see very vividly it's not working," Walker said of the exchange. "We want to make sure nobody falls through the cracks."

Walker toughened Medicaid eligibility in the state budget, forcing 77,000 people off the state's BadgerCare plan and into the marketplace as of Jan. 1. The governor's administration gave everyone who would lose coverage until Dec. 15 to sign up for an alternative plan through the exchange to ensure uninterrupted coverage.

The exchange, a cornerstone of President Barack Obama's signature health care reform plan, offers people a chance to shop online for a private insurance plan. People who sign up for the plans can collect federal subsidies.

The website went live on Oct. 1 but it's been fraught with technical problems, making it difficult to sign up. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released state-by-state numbers on Wednesday that showed only 877 Wisconsin residents have been able to successfully enroll in a program between Oct. 1 and Nov. 2.

Walker said he wants the Legislature to pass a bill that would extend Medicaid coverage for those 77,000 people until April 1, the day the exchange is supposed to close. The governor also said he wants lawmakers to pass a bill that would allow about 20,000 people to continue to get insurance through what's known as a high-risk pool through April 1.

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