Wisconsin's BadgerCare Plus Reform

Impact on Low-Income Families' Enrollment and Retention in Public Coverage

This article examines the impact of Wisconsin health reforms, passed in 2008, to increase public insurance enrollment and retention. The BadgerCare Plus (BC+) program was designed to offer health insurance coverage to almost all Wisconsin children and to some low-income parents and caregivers. BC+ was created in 2008 as a result of the merger of BadgerCare and Medicaid into one program.

The authors assessed the impact of BC+ on enrollment and exit rates by analyzing data from Wisconsin's CARES program, an administrative database, between 2007 and 2009. The sample included 985,092 children and adults.

Key Findings:

  • Overall enrollment in BC+ increased by almost 33 percent. The number of children enrolled increased 29 percent between 2007 and 2009, while the number of adults enrolled increased by 46 percent. Over half of new enrollments of children came from families who had been eligible for public health insurance before the reform.
  • An average of 2.6 percent of children and 4.2 percent of adults exited the program over the study period.

This research suggests that reforms to the BadgerCare program in Wisconsin resulted in substantial enrollment increases. These reforms included eligibility expansion, autoenrollment, administrative streamlining and targeted outreach campaigns.

This article appears in a special issue of the journal HSR: Health Services Research. The study was carried out through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s State Health Access Reform Evaluation (SHARE). SHARE guides the implementation of health reform and supports research on the expansion of health insurance coverage.