Assembly passes bill to extend BadgerCare coverage

MADISON (WITI) -- The Wisconsin Assembly on Wednesday, December 4th convened in a special session to delay a deadline that would move thousands of people off of BadgerCare and onto the federal health care exchanges. Republicans say the bill passed Wednesday is the last extension, but Democrats say it should be permanent.

State Rep. Gordon Hintz (D - Oshkosh) opened the debate Wednesday with a question.

"What's the matter with Wisconsin? Why is Wisconsin the only state in the United States in this position of having to schedule a special session?" Rep. Hintz asked.

It was a question he answered himself.

"Wisconsin -- compared to the other states was actually in the unique position of kicking people off health insurance," Rep. Hintz said.

Gov. Scott Walker's budget requires nearly 90,000 poor people to move off the state's Medicaid program known as "BadgerCare" and to purchase their own insurance through the online exchanges.

However, because of's troubled rollout, it's clear many won't meet the state's enrollment deadline of December 15th.

"I understand the acrimony that some of you may feel about a promise that was made by the President of the United States of America. The President made a promise that we would have a working web site and that every American could keep their health insurance if Obamacare was passed. What we now know is that wasn't true," Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said.

"Let's be clear, we are hear 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," Cory Mason (D - Racine ) said.

The bill would give those people a three month extension -- allowing them to keep BadgerCare coverage until March 31st, instead of being removed on January 1st.

"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 is going to transition off of BadgerCare into the private exchanges to get that done, I would call theater compassion," Rep. Vos said.

"You know if my mom was here she'd say 'being compassionate, my foot.' You are not being compassionate, so let's throw that word away on your talking points on your desk. Cross it off," Rep. Andy Jorgensen (R - Watertown) said.

Despite some Democratic objections, the bill passed with bipartisan support.

The Senate is scheduled to take a vote on the proposal in mid-December.