Wisconsin's Consolidated Health Insurance Program Enrollment High

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Enrollmentin Wisconsin's new BadgerCare Plus program has "farexceeded" officials' expectations, with more than 71,000 residentsenrolling in the first six weeks of the program, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports (Boulton/Forster, MilwaukeeJournal Sentinel, 4/29). The program consolidates and streamlines thestate's existing Medicaid, Healthy Start and Badger Care programs.

Under the initiative, families with annual incomes up to 300% of the federalpoverty level are eligible to purchase basic health coverage for their childrenfor $10 to $90.74 per month, depending on income. Families with incomes greaterthan 300% of the poverty level will have to contribute the full cost forcoverage -- about $1,089 annually per child -- and coverage will be fullysubsidized for families with incomes below 200% of the poverty level. Familieswith incomes up to 150% of the poverty level will be enrolled in the programimmediately after they submit their applications and will have up to two monthsto provide required documentation. Parents whose employers cover 80% of thecost of family coverage and undocumented immigrant children do not qualify forthe program. The program is expected to cost $50 million over the nextyear-and-a-half, and the federal government will pay more than 60% of the costs(Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report,2/5). Officials had expected that an additional 26,000 to 27,000 eligibleresidents would enroll in the program during the first 12 to 18 months.

According to the Journal Sentinel, the high enrollment "willadd to the program's cost at a time when the economy is slowing" and"could undercut the state's projection that the cost would be offset bystreamlining state health programs, expanding the use" of HMOs and thepremiums and copayments from beneficiaries. Enrollment could continue toincrease, but officials expect that some residents will lose coverage becauseof failure to contribute monthly premiums. Gov. Jim Doyle (D) acknowledged ashortfall in the budget but said there are no plans to cut the program (MilwaukeeJournal Sentinel, 4/29).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health PolicyReport is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation.

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