Created: 11/14/2013 3:09 PM KSTP.com
By: Megan Stewart
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called a special legislative session Thursday to extend the deadline for moving 77,000 people off Medicaid until April, saying they need more time to sign up for private insurance through the problem-plagued online federal health care exchange.
Walker, a Republican, toughened Medicaid eligibility in the state budget, saying those people could find private coverage through the exchange. He gave everyone who would lose coverage until Dec. 15 to sign up for an alternative plan through the exchange to ensure uninterrupted coverage on Jan. 1.
But the website has been fraught with problems, making it difficult to sign up. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released state-by-state numbers on Wednesday that showed only 877 Wisconsin residents have been able to successfully enroll in a program between Oct. 1, when the exchange opened, and Nov. 2.
Walker said at a news conference that by April, the federal government should have the exchange working properly.
"We see very vividly it's not working," Walker said of the exchange. "We want to make sure nobody falls through the cracks."
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, told The Associated Press he wasn't sure how much support Walker has in that chamber for the proposal, saying the Legislature shouldn't have to "bail out" Democrats for the problems of the health care overhaul launch.
He said he'd rather extend the deadline on a month-to-month basis.
"I'd just like to explore that first," he said. "I'm working with the governor to get there."
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Madison Democrat, sent Walker a letter on Tuesday asking him to let the 77,000 stay on Medicaid through the end of March, when the exchange closes for everyone. Her letter came a few days after advocacy groups wrote to Walker expressing concern about the Dec. 15 deadline. They asked Walker to spell out his contingency plans if enrollment on the exchange continues to be difficult.
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