(Updates with Senate approval)
By Brendan O'Brien
MILWAUKEE, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Wisconsin lawmakers on Thursday approved delaying by three months a plan to shift thousands of people from a state Medicaid program onto the federal health insurance marketplace that has been plagued by technical problems.
The Republican-led state Senate voted 18-12 to approve the proposal that would allow 72,000 people due to be shifted from Wisconsin's BadgerCare Medicaid program on Jan. 1 to stay on until the end of March.
The measure, which was approved by the Assembly on Dec. 4, now goes to the desk of Republican Governor Scott Walker, who sought the delay.
The HealthCare.gov website for the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, had a rocky start on Oct. 1. Wisconsin officials said only 877 residents were able to sign up for the federal healthcare exchange that month.
Earlier in December, federal officials said the site was performing markedly better after a self-imposed deadline to fix the portal.
Walker called a special session to consider the delay, which would give the BadgerCare recipients more time to enroll in the federal marketplace for health insurance.
Wisconsin was one of 36 states that chose not to create a state exchange, instead relying on the federal government to create an exchange where people can shop for health insurance.
Walker's state budget signed in June tightened the income qualifications for BadgerCare to 100 percent of the federal poverty level from 200 percent, pushing 72,000 people toward the federal health insurance program.
At the same time, the plan expanded BadgerCare eligibility to about 83,000 childless adults with household incomes less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level. The measure lawmakers are considering in the special session would require those adults to wait until April 1 to enroll in BadgerCare. (Editing by Eric Walsh, Scott Malone, G Crosse)