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Wisconsin lawmakers consider delay in state Medicaid changes

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[December 04, 2013]   MILWAUKEE (Reuters)  Wisconsin lawmakers on Wednesday are expected to consider delaying by three months a plan to shift thousands of people from a state Medicaid program onto the federal health insurance marketplace that has been plagued by technical problems.

Under the proposal backed by Republican Governor Scott Walker, about 72,000 people now due to be shifted from Wisconsin's BadgerCare Medicaid program on January 1 would be allowed to stay on until the end of March.

The healthcare.gov website for the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, had a rocky start on October 1. Wisconsin officials said only 877 residents were able to sign up for the federal healthcare exchange that month.

Last weekend, federal officials said the site was performing markedly better after a self-imposed deadline to fix the portal.


Walker called a special session to consider the delay, which would give the BadgerCare recipients more time to enroll in the federal marketplace for health insurance.

Wisconsin state representatives are expected to vote Wednesday on the proposal. If approved by the state Assembly, state senators could vote on the delay later in December. Republicans hold a majority in both sides of the legislature.

"The federal government failed to get its website fully operational, and it is irresponsible to force some Wisconsinites to pay the price for the federal government's failure," Walker said in a statement announcing the session.

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Wisconsin was one of 36 states that chose not to create a state exchange, instead relying on the federal government to create an exchange where people can shop for health insurance.

Walker's state budget signed in June tightened the income qualifications for BadgerCare to 100 percent of the federal poverty level, from 200 percent, pushing 72,000 people toward the federal health insurance program.

At the same time, the plan expanded BadgerCare eligibility to about 83,000 childless adults who have household incomes less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level. The measure lawmakers are considering in the special session would require those adults to wait until April 1 to enroll in BadgerCare.

[By Brendan O'Brien]

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien; editing by David Bailey and David Gregorio)

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