Walker's bill affects BadgerCare, Medicaid - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Walker's bill affects BadgerCare, Medicaid

 By Anna Carrera - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

WAUSAU (WAOW) -- With thousands of protesters hitting the pavement in Madison, you might think union workers are the only ones on the chopping block. Local health care providers said they're concerned about how state cuts could affect the care they give patients. But not everyone agrees that the cuts are unfair.

Workers at the Bridge Community Health Clinic say 70% of the patients they treat qualify for Medicaid, a program that could be affected by the budget repair bill proposed by Governor Walker.

"It allows our patients to get the care they need and deserve," said Bridge Community Health Clinic Executive Director Laura Scudiere. "But cuts to that, regardless of how small, are going to have major impacts on the Wausau area."

The governor's proposal would allow the Department of Health Services to revise rules in state laws, which could include requiring cost sharing, modifying benefits or reducing income levels for BadgerCare and Medicaid patients.

"That is concerning to us," said Scudiere. "We're not really sure if that's legal."

Other health care leaders who spoke with Newsline 9 said they're concerned about the vague wording in the bill.

"It gives broad powers to the department of health services to make necessary changes to reduce costs of the medicaid system. it doesn't really specify what those changes are," said North Central Health Care CEO Gary Bezucha.

Some Republicans in the area said they support Governor Walker. Some said even though they value health care, something needs to be done to balance the budget.

"The costs for Medicaid and BadgerCare and all those in the last number of years, you'll see that that's unsustainable," said Bob Rajek, the chairman of the Lincoln County Republican Party. "We're not going to be able to pay that."

Local health leaders who spoke with Newsline 9 said they want to see changes before Walker's bill becomes a law.

"Amend that so there's some more checks and balances," said Scudiere, "so that it's not just giving one person complete authority to change and cut Medicaid as they see fit."

But Republicans said these budget cuts shouldn't come as a surprise to people in the state.

"This has been coming for a while," said Rajek. "Maybe with a little restraint a few years ago, we wouldn't be in the situation where we'd have to do this."

About 1 in 5 people in the state qualify for either BadgerCare or Medicaid. The state currently faces a $214 million deficit this fiscal year and could fall almost $2 billion in the red over the next two years.

Online Reporter: Anna Carrera

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