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Schachtner defeats Jarchow in special election

Doyle admin looks to overhaul BadgerCare

Wisconsin is making major changes to a medical program designed for the working poor. The overhaul of BadgerCare will be the biggest since the program started in the 1960s.

The BadgerCare Plus initiative aims to combine existing programs and make them more efficient without costing taxpayers more money. The election-year program expansion was endorsed by Democratic Governor Jim Doyle in his annual State of the State address in January.

Doyle's administration hopes to get health insurance for all children; statistics show 12 percent of Wisconsin's kids went without coverage in 2004.

Helene Nelson, Health and Family Services secretary, said without action, that number will increase. Nelson spoke at a town hall meeting seeking community input about developing BadgerCare Plus.

One concern is dental care; many low- income people can't find a dentist willing to take Medicaid. So starting next month, dental hygienists will be reimbursed by the state for providing preventive services.

Another change to improve availability of general health care is a state-run website called Access.

People can log on to find out if they're eligible for various state assistance programs: everything from medical services to food stamps or heating aid.

Jonathan Bader is with Wisconsin Community Program Association. He notes that all of these programs have an impact on one another; if people are paying more for prescription drugs or heating oil, than that reduces money for food in grocery store.

The Doyle administration also hopes to provide health care for aging teens in foster care. That measure didn't make it through the Legislature, but Lieutenant Gov. Barbara Lawton says it's still a priority.