Last week, Wisconsin health officials unveiled a Medicaid reform plan that “would tighten eligibility requirements” and lead to thousands of residents to either lose access to the state’s Medicaid program or receive reduced coverage. Health Secretary Dennis Smith attributed the proposed cuts to “rising costs driven by an explosion in Medicaid participation in the past two decades and dwindling federal funding” and promptly asked the Obama administration for help.
As part of its reform package, Wisconsin submitted two waiver requests to the federal government that would allow the state to push some families with an offer of employer coverage off the rolls and require “young adults between the ages of 19 and 26 to join their parents’ insurance plans”:
If the federal government doesn’t grant the waiver before the end of the year, the state budget would bar adults who make more than 133 percent of the federal poverty level, or $24,645 for a family of three, from participating in BadgerCare Plus Core and BadgerCare Plus, which makes all uninsured children eligible for Medicaid. That would push 53,161 people out of both programs, according to DHS documents. The cutoff now is 200 percent of the poverty level, or $37,060 for a family of three.
Of course, young adults are only be able to join their parents’ policies thanks to a provision in the Affordable Care Act, which the state is challenging in court and has undermined at every turn. Now, Wisconsin officials are seeking to take advantage of the law in order to soften the cuts to their Medicaid program.
If they look deeper into the measure — and move beyond their rhetoric about government takeover and one-size-fits-all — they may even discover that they can solve their “dwindling federal funding” problem by accepting health reform’s grants and the additional dollars that will come with Medicaid expansion.