State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.
The state Senate approved Senate Bill 484 (SB 484) creating another new, unaffordable state government health care plan without a method to pay for the program. It is called BadgerCare Plus Basic to address the overflow that evolved from the BadgerCare Plus Core plan that was adopted during the 2009-2011 state budget. BadgerCare Plus Core covers childless adults with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty line.
Interest was so great in BadgerCare Plus Core that the program immediately filled and a huge waiting list was created. Originally, the program was expected to have 24,900 participants during 2009-10. As of January 8, 2010, the number grew to 63,644, more than double capacity.
SB 484 rolls out BadgerCare Plus Basic that is similar to the Core plan, and is sold as fully funded by fees paid by enrollees. The Department of Health Services (DHS) estimates that a minimum of 5,000 people on the 25,000 Core plan waiting list will sign up for the Basic plan. Based on that assumption, DHS says a monthly premium of $130 will cover the program’s costs. The bill does not include a limit on pre-existing conditions, and there is not a requirement that an enrollee remain in the program for a specific length of time.
Who will be willing to pay $130 a month? Those with high health care costs.
The Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) explains BadgerCare Plus Core would not prohibit an individual that knows he/she needs a service covered under the plan from enrolling, paying a short term premum, and terminating enrollment after receiving service.
The LFB says the plan could encourage enrollment by having a deductible that would apply to hospital visits only after the first inpatient stay or the fifth non-emergency outpatient visit. Ten physician visits per year would also be allowed.
An eligible person will sign up as soon as he/she becomes aware of a medical problem. Once those problems are taken care of, they will bail out of the program and eliminate that pressure on their personal budgets. This adverse selection effect is likely to make the program far more expensive than its proponents are saying.
Our state is currently mired in a horrific fiscal mess. BadgerCare Plus Basic makes our economic crisis even worse.
The state Senate needed to send SB 484 back to committee for further study, including answers about payment for BadgerCare Plus Basic and completion of an audit. A motion to refer SB 484 to committee failed.
As a member of the Legislative Joint Audit Committee, I have called for an audit of the state’s massive Medical Assistance (MA) program that totals $5 billion. An amendment to conduct an audit of BadgerCare Plus Core was approved by the state Senate.
The membership numbers for BadgerCare Plus Core that exploded from 24,900 to 63,644 clearly cry out for an MA audit. The program surely has problems that the highly respected nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) would snuff out. Like the audit of Wisconsin Shares, an MA audit is of critical importance to the state that has an obligation to taxpayers to determine the depth of problems. Despite the call for an MA audit, the Democrat chairs of the Audit Committee have thus far refused to schedule a review. Instead, by and large we have been using the LAB’s valuable time to audit programs in the $400 thousand ballpark.
I voted against SB 484 that was approved 17-16. SB 484 now goes to the state Assembly.