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Sen. Jon Erpenbach: BadgerCare Plus a positive step for health care
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Enrollment in BadgerCare Plus has begun and Wisconsin children from all income levels are eligible for the expanded BadgerCare program. It is estimated that 98,000 Wisconsin children were uninsured for all or part of 2006. About 93 percent of the uninsured children live in a household where a parent is working. What these numbers demonstrate are that working people in Wisconsin are not able to find health insurance for their children and themselves.

As the author of Healthy Wisconsin, I have spent the past year advocating for affordable, quality health care delivered through a portable system, without penalties, for all of Wisconsin's people. While we have not yet been able to achieve Healthy Wisconsin in the Legislature, it is designed to work with the BadgerCare Plus system.

BadgerCare has proven to be a highly cost effective use of federal and state dollars, keeping low-income children, their families and low- to moderate-income pregnant women covered with health insurance. While BadgerCare is not a perfect system because of sometimes complicated applications, a less-than-perfect income verification process, exclusion of farmers because of deductibility problems, and penalties for families that rise just above income levels; BadgerCare Plus works to remedy many of the shortcomings and makes a streamlined system easier for families and more administratively efficient. All these changes are good news for those thinking of applying.

The BadgerCare Plus plan will expand eligibility to health insurance for:

• All citizen children, with financial help for families up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level;

• Pregnant women between 185 and 300 percent of poverty;

• Farm families and other self-employed parents with incomes up to 200 percent of poverty (many of whom were excluded from previous programs because of punitive income definition);

• Youths who leave the foster care system at 18; and

• Parents with children in foster care and caretaker relatives below 200 percent of poverty.

Obviously I hope that the Legislature will follow my lead and determine that all of Wisconsin's people deserve the same health insurance coverage the governor has, but until that is able to happen I am pleased that BadgerCare Plus has begun enrollment and that all children in Wisconsin are eligible for the program. Childhood illness and disease are best treated with preventive health care, regular well visits, and a consistent medical home. Healthy children do better in school and their parents are able to miss less work. BadgerCare Plus fulfills the promise we should have to our children to provide them access to health care without prejudice.

To determine whether you or your family are eligible for BadgerCare Plus visit: or contact my office at (608) 266-6670.

- State Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, represents the 27th State Senate District, which includes Green County.