A group of around 30 people gathered at a vigil for healthcare in Madison late Sunday to “mourn” restarted eligibility checks that will likely reduce the number of people covered under BadgerCare Plus.
The vigil, held in Madison’s Triangle Neighborhood, was organized by the Wisconsin branch of the Poor People’s Campaign with support from the Nonviolent Medicaid Army and the Madison chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.
BadgerCare Plus is a program that guarantees healthcare coverage for individuals for the extent of the federal COVID-19 emergency using congressional funding for state Medicaid programs. At its peak in March 2023, 1.7 million Wisconsin residents were on Medicaid, 1.2 million of which were enrolled as a part of BadgerCare Plus.
Over the coming months, 1.6 million Wisconsinites who are either fully or in part covered by a Wisconsin Medicaid program will be forced to navigate through the administrative process of renewing their eligibility for BadgerCare Plus.
Research organizations estimate that up to 72,000 Wisconsinites could be left uninsured during the process, according to the Cap Times.
Sarah Weintraub, one of the chairs of the Wisconsin Poor People’s Campaign, told The Daily Cardinal ahead of the event that the sunset of funding from the COVID-19 emergency will leave many Wisconsin residents without access to healthcare.
“We’re essentially in the process of a massive removal of healthcare access for people in our state,” Weintraub said. “People’s lives will be lost as a result of this process.”
Danielle Thai, coordinator of the Wisconsin Poor People’s Campaign’s Dane County coordinating committee and statewide coordinating committee, also told the Cardinal the vigil is meant to highlight the impact this rollback will have on the state’s most vulnerable residents.
“A part of almost all, if not all, of our events, meetings and rallies that the Poor People’s Campaign coordinates, there's always a focus on lifting up the stories of those who are most impacted,” Thai said. “A big part of our event in Madison is hearing stories from people who are directly impacted.”
Weintraub said that the vigils were only the beginning part of the Poor People’s Campaign across the country.
“This is a long term movement that we’re building,” Weintraub said. “This is not a one off. In February, we hope that people will commit themselves to organizing when we’ll have mobilizations to statehouses coordinated across the country.”
Ian Wilder is a current features writer and former state politics reporter for The Daily Cardinal. Follow him on Twitter at @IanWWilder.