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ACA in Wisconsin, ACA: Medicare & Medicaid, Healthcare in Wisconsin

5 Questions to Ask Yourself, Before June 5th – Question 1: What options do low-income women and families currently have for health care coverage in Wisconsin?

We all have something at stake when it comes to health care reform implementation, or lack thereof – and we all have a voice through our vote. Our 5 day blog series, “5 Questions to Ask Yourself, Before June 5th” is an opportunity for you to learn and share what the upcoming election means for health care reform implementation and women’s health in Wisconsin. Wisconsin women need leaders and policymakers who are on board with giving women and their families more affordable and accessible health care options and choices. Voting is one of the most important ways you can raise your voice for women’s health. If you need more information on where to vote or how to register, visit wisconsinvote.org.

For Wisconsin, the past year has been a little “topsy-turvy” in terms of health care access for low-income individuals. Although Wisconsin has historically done a great job giving many coverage options to low-income families– there are still over 500,000 people who are still uninsured. In total, 9% of Wisconsin’s population is uninsured women and girls.

Many who are low-income are able to get insurance coverage through the state’s Medicaid programs, like BadgerCare. For women, not only do these services provide relief should they or their children get sick – it also provides important reproductive health services. A recent publication by the Guttmacher Institute shows that Medicaid family planning services is vital for Wisconsin women – and helped avoid 24,300 unintended pregnancies in 2008.

Here’s where the “topsy-turvy” part comes in.

Within the past year, sweeping changes were proposed –and some approved – to our state’s Medicaid program, BadgerCare. At the same time, the Walker Administration announced a stop on ANY steps toward health care reform implementation – including building a state Exchange, which we will discuss in more detail in our “question 3” blog.

Although the originally proposed changes by the Walker Administration would have resulted in almost 65,000 individuals to lose BadgerCare coverage, thanks to the federal government and health care reform policies already set in place, not all of the proposed changes were approved. However, it is estimated that about 48,000 people will have higher BadgerCare premiums because of the changes and roughly 17,000 adults are expected to lose their BadgerCare coverage, altogether. See Wisconsin Council on Children and Families’ summary and Q&A on changes to BadgerCare.

Additionally, there are about 130,000 childless adults in Wisconsin on the waiting list for state’s BadgerCare Core program. Even with enrollment in the program decreasing, a cap – placed on the when it reached its maximum enrollment – has not been lifted.

Why is this question important for June 5th? Most health care advocates agree, in order to achieve real health care reform Wisconsin needs strong Medicaid programs AND a health care Exchange – plus Wisconsin leaders who support both. The new health care reform law expands Medicaid so that all eligible low income women and families in Wisconsin will be covered.  In fact, an estimated 45% of uninsured women ages 18-64 – or about 78,000 women, would become eligible for Medicaid after the expansion.  

What options do low-income women and families have for health care coverage, now, in Wisconsin? Maybe we should ask: What options could they have?

Stay tuned, tomorrow, for question 2: What does health care reform have to do with the economy?

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