Reps. Sandy Pasch and Joan Ballweg Discuss BadgerCare Delay

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Reps. Sandy Pasch and Joan Ballweg Discuss BadgerCare Delay

Premiere Date: 
December 6, 2013

The bill delaying the BadgerCare transition for 3 months passed the Assembly this week.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Robin Vos:

We kept our part of the bargain, but the federal government didn't keep theirs, which is why we are giving an additional three months for anybody in Wisconsin who was going to transition off of BadgerCare into the private exchanges to get that done. I would call that compassion.

Peter Barca:

Not so fast, Mr. Speaker. Promises made, promises kept. We can't control what happens in Washington DC, but what you were elected to do is to control what happens in the state of Wisconsin.

Frederica Freyberg:

The battle over the healthcare overhaul lands in the Wisconsin assembly. I'm Frederica Freyberg. Tonight on "Here and Now," a closer look at a vote that extends some medical insurance plans and delays coverage for others. Plus, a new and improved federal website for the Affordable Care Act is up and running, but is it meeting expectations. Find out what a Wisconsin expert says. Also, new information about the proposed Gogebic Taconite iron ore mine in northwestern Wisconsin and the threat of asbestos. And we explore a new land purchase by the Nature Conservancy on St. Martin Island located off the tip of Door County.

But first this week, a vote on a special session healthcare bill. The state assembly passed a bill that Governor Scott Walker proposed. It would extend the state BadgerCare and high-risk insurance plans for three months because of the problems with the federal healthcare enrollment website. That means more than 90,000 people on BadgerCare and the high-risk plan will now have until the end of March to sign on to insurance through the healthcare marketplace. The governor's budget had originally called for individuals above the poverty line to seek private insurance by January 1. That budget also made a promise to 83,000 adults without children who are at or below the poverty line, that they could come off the waiting list for state-run Medicaid health care. But because other BadgerCare and high-risk plan policies will be extended, those people will have to wait until April 1 for coverage. That's left both political parties pointing the finger.  

Cory Mason:

There's no need to make this false choice. And let's be clear, we are here today because of the governor's inaction on accepting Medicaid dollars. We are in this crisis today because of what this governor failed to do.

John Nygren:

There's only one reason why we're here today. There's only one reason. That's because the decisions and programming and plans of the federal government have failed in the implementation of Obamacare.

Frederica Freyberg:

After passing the assembly the legislation now moves to the Wisconsin senate for action two weeks from now. Both sides call the need for this bill a case of broken promises. Joining us from Milwaukee is assistant assembly Democratic leader Sandy Pasch, who is also the ranking member of the assembly committee on health. And joining us in our studio this week is Republican state representative, Joan Ballweg. Thanks to both of you for being here.

Joan Ballweg:

Happy to be here.

Sandy Pasch:

Thank you for having us.

Frederica Freyberg:

I’m going to go first to you, Representative Ballweg, what promise do you think was broken necessitating this special session?

Joan Ballweg:

I think the promise that was broken was that the Obamacare roll-out would be ready for our folks here in Wisconsin. So what we're-- The promise we're keeping is that we're making sure the promise that we made through our budget this year was that we were going to protect those that were already on these programs, both with the HIRSP program and with our BadgerCare program. So we're making sure that those people that currently do have those coverages will still be able to have those coverage. Especially, I see the almost 20,000 people on the HIRSP coverage program that was started back in '79 that my father was actually on in the middle '80s, something that we needed to take care of. And the promise was broken, unfortunately, from Washington DC with the Obamacare roll-out.

Frederica Freyberg:

And Representative Pasch, what promise do Democrats say was broken here?

Sandy Pasch:

There was a promise broken by the Republicans and governor that people would have access to healthcare beginning January 1. Because of the crisis caused by the Republicans, a refusal to accept federal dollars for Medicaid expansion, dollars that were paid for by people in the state of Wisconsin, the decision was made that 85,000 Wisconsinites, the poorest of the poor, people at 100% of federal poverty and below, will not have access to health care until April 1.

Frederica Freyberg:

Representative Baldwin, and I want to talk more about those issues, but first to you. The extension makes sense because of the issues with the healthcare website. What have you heard from constituents who were trying to make this so-called transition into the marketplace?

Joan Ballweg:

Well, what I've heard from constituents, both email and talking to folks on the street and being out and about the last couple months is we heard of all the problems with the roll-out. People are so grateful that they can have-- rest assured that they're going to be continuing the coverage that they currently have. And I've heard that in more than one-- more than one venue. They are very happy that we're taking this step to make sure that they still have coverage for the next three months.

Frederica Freyberg:

On the other hand, Representative Pasch, what had Democrats wanted instead of or in addition to the extension out of this special session bill?

Sandy Pasch:

We wanted the ideology to stop and the Republicans to accept the federal dollars that would have been $86 million-- $86 million would have covered 85,000 individuals. And if they didn't believe in doing it for the full biennium, they could have at least done it for three months. Because my constituents-- some of my constituents are the very, very poorest of the poor that will be affected by this, people who are getting by on medications that they won't be able to afford anymore, people who need surgery that they won't be able to get, people who desperately need healthcare. And putting it off for three months is going to have serious consequences for many of these people. I'm very happy to extend coverage and access to the exchanges for families on the BadgerCare plan and for the individuals on the HIRSP program. I think we all agree on that. But we're saying you don't have to make a choice, that by doing that you limit health care for so many thousands and thousands of Wisconsinites.

Frederica Freyberg:

Representative Ballweg, taking the federal Medicaid expansion for three months only sounds like a bona fide compromise. Why not go there?

Joan Ballweg:

Well, I don't think that this was an opportunity for a reset. What this was was an opportunity to help the people in Wisconsin who are in this situation to get through this failed roll-out of the Obamacare. Now, the website will become more functional, but we still have more-- more concerns that people are having regarding privacy. And especially in my area, we have such limited opportunities through the marketplace. Actually, we only have one provider-- one insurance company that is going to be available in a couple of-- couple of my counties. So I really would appreciate the opportunity that the governor has brought forward in asking that we expand this marketplace by-- to all the companies that are available in Wisconsin, do more a direct-- a direct type of sign-up.

Frederica Freyberg:

What about those people, though, that were on this waiting list that thought they were getting coverage as of January 1? What about those people?

Joan Ballweg:

Well, that's-- that truly is-- that truly is the failed promise and the crisis that has come up because this-- the Obamacare has not been able to meet its-- meet its goals. Because that's the folks who are falling through the gap right now.

Frederica Freyberg:

Representative Pasch, what about that? She says that's the Obama administration's fault.

Sandy Pasch:

We are not-- We are not serving the United States. We serve the people in the state of Wisconsin, and we are the only state that has to have this crisis fixed that's going on. The Affordable Care Act was meant to cover people at 100-- up to 133% of poverty. It has been tinkered with by the Republicans and by Governor Walker. This is an opportunity to not say to 85,000 Wisconsinites that you don't matter. This is just based on ideology, a refusal to take money for a short period of time to make sure that 85,000 individuals have access to health care. It just-- it-- it-- I'm astonished that the ideology is so strong that they're not willing to do that.

Joan Ballweg:

I would just-- I would just mention that the tinkering that we've done in Wisconsin according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, we're the one state that is not going to have anyone come-- fall through the gaps. And unfortunately we have this roll-out problem, where we couldn't fully implement and have everyone covered January 1. But we're going to make sure that the least we can do the status quo and as this roll-out progresses long term, I don't think it's going to be sustainable, but in the short term as it rolls out, we will have everyone covered in Wisconsin.  

Sandy Pasch:

Three months is a long time to go without healthcare for the individuals who find a suspicious lump, for people who can't afford their medications for three months. This is a very long time. That does not have to happen.

Frederica Freyberg:

We need to leave it there. We will be looking toward the state senate as they take this up in a couple of weeks. Representative Pasch out of Milwaukee, Representative Baldwin here in Madison, thank you.

Joan Ballweg:

Thank you.

Sandy Pasch:

Thank you very much.

Frederica Freyberg:

Related to the Affordable Care Act, Governor Walker is asking the federal government to allow Wisconsin to join a pilot program. Walker would like the option to allow insurance companies to directly enroll people for health care coverage instead of going through the flawed federal website, healthcare.gov. Florida, Ohio and Texas have already been given approval for that direct enrollment. 


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