Despite Supreme Court health care ruling, reform on hold in Wisconsin

By: AP
By: AP

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin Republicans say the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling upholding most of President Barack Obama's health care reforms will have no immediate effect in the state aside from galvanizing the GOP going into the November elections.

Gov. Scott Walker has already vowed not to implement any facets of the law ahead of the elections. He hopes the next president and Congress will repeal the overhaul.

On Thursday the governor said the law amounts to a massive tax increase. The Republican leaders of the Legislature's health committees say the ruling perpetuates uncertainty for businesses, curtailing job growth, and voters will make things right in November.

Robert Kraig is the executive director of health care advocacy group Citizen Action of Wisconsin. He says Walker has a moral obligation to begin the implementation process.

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MADISON — Regardless of the outcome of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has vowed not to do anything until after the November elections.

Walker, an outspoken critic of the law, originally said in January that he would not begin setting up the state's health insurance exchange required by the law until after the court ruled. Earlier this month, the Republican governor went even further, saying if the law is upheld he will not do anything until after the fall election, hoping that the next president and Congress will repeal it.

Only after those two fail would Wisconsin "figure out some alternative within the state," Walker said in a statement released by his office this week.

Republican state lawmakers appear to be onboard with that approach, even while Democrats and health care advocates say the state should be more bullish in moving forward with consumer protections and other reforms under the law.

The law would provide health care to about 30 million uninsured people nationwide and make coverage more affordable to millions of others by expanding the reach of Medicaid; forbid insurance companies from refusing coverage to people with pre-existing illnesses; and create new subsidies. Officially known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the law is called "Obamacare" by opponents, including Walker.

The Supreme Court, expected to rule on the law Thursday, could allow it to remain or strike down all or part of it. But the ruling is likely to signal only the next stage of the debate, not settle the issue, especially in states such as Wisconsin where Republicans control the governor's office and legislature.

Walker's decision to wait until after the November election before doing anything makes sense, said state Assembly Health Committee Chairman Rep. Jeff Stone, R-Greendale.

"There's no way we're going to do anything between now and the elections anyway on this topic," Stone said. "We owe it to business in this state, and our own economy, to have some clear direction."

One of Walker's first actions on the day he took office in January 2011 was to authorize Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen to join the multistate lawsuit trying to block the law, which Congress passed in 2010.

"He's on the far end of the spectrum in terms of trying to block the law and doing nothing to prepare for it," said Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, a health care advocacy group that supports the law and expanding health insurance coverage.

Even if the court does as many predict and strikes down the mandate that everyone have health insurance, Kraig said, other important changes, including the expansion of Medicaid and allowing young adults up to age 26 to remain on their parents plans, could remain.

"Wisconsin needs to be in position to take full advantage of this law," he said.

State Rep. Jon Richards of Milwaukee, the ranking Democrat on the Assembly Health Committee, said it's a big mistake not for Wisconsin to move forward with implementing the health insurance exchange and other parts of the federal law.

"Wisconsin should be in charge of our own destiny with health care and the consumers in Wisconsin should get the benefits of the law no matter what happens in Washington," Richards said.

Wisconsin, as with many states, has done nothing to set up a health insurance exchange through which residents could choose among different plans to buy private insurance with taxpayer-provided assistance to cover the cost of premiums. The exchanges are designed to increase competition by requiring insurers to offer more plans and provide more information.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has set a Nov. 16 deadline for states to submit plans for their health insurance exchanges, which must be in place by 2014. The federal government would step in and run exchanges in states that don't have them.

Richards and Democratic state Sen. Jon Erpenbach of Middleton introduced a bill last year, supported by a host of consumer advocacy groups, that would have put major parts of the federal overhaul into state law, including the ban on denying coverage due to a pre-existing condition and removing annual and lifetime benefit caps.

The proposal went nowhere in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Richards said it's frustrating that the Walker administration has been blocking the changes and "frittered away" the opportunity to be proactive.

"It's about political posturing," Richards said.

Wisconsin has relatively few people without insurance coverage, thanks to its popular BadgerCare programs that began under welfare reforms enacted by Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson in the late 1990s. The programs were expanded under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, but Walker scaled them back amid skyrocketing demand and state budget troubles.

Based on 2010 U.S. Census Bureau data, 90.6 percent people in Wisconsin had insurance coverage. That tied with Maine for the third-highest rate of any state, after Hawaii at 92.3 percent and Massachusetts at 94.4 percent.

A spokeswoman for Walker's Department of Health Services emphasized that Wisconsin was able to reach a high level of coverage without a federal mandate.


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  • by Anon Location: Local on Jul 1, 2012 at 08:23 PM
    I have mixed feelings on the reform. In the mean time I would love to see WI finally crack down on all the Badger Care and Medicaid abusers. All for those who need it. Those that lie about income, who have a life long goal of using the system need to be cut off. How can people working jobs that pay $20 an hour be on Badger Care? How can a family of 4 living on 3 incomes be on Badger Care? They have money to run, buy, shop and vacation. Cut them off and make them pay health insurance like the rest of us. I'd be vacationing too if I didn't pay $450 a month in premiums.
  • by Jim on Jul 1, 2012 at 12:43 PM
    Thank God there is still some common sense found in our state and leader in Walker. There is no such thing as "free lunch"...or healthcare and guess who pays.....the achievers.
  • by pat Location: ec, wi on Jul 1, 2012 at 11:47 AM
    The man has the tenacity of a bulldog and the awareness of a flea. May he evolve soon.
  • by Bertha Location: EC on Jun 29, 2012 at 07:50 PM
    Wisconsin has had HIRSP available to the "uninsurable" since 1979. Those of you who wine about being unable to get insurance haven't done your homework. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, explore your options. They are there. And they've been there for years. You didn't need Obama to "save" you!
    • reply
      by lin on Jul 1, 2012 at 04:26 AM in reply to Bertha
      I've done a little reading about HIRSP. There are criteria you must meet, in order to be eligible for this insurance. If you meet the criteria, you're probably OK; if not, I guess you are sunk.
  • by Anon Location: WI on Jun 29, 2012 at 10:16 AM
    On mommy and daddys insurance until age 26? If you don't have a job by 26 I'm afraid we'll be paying your freight for a long time.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jun 29, 2012 at 11:36 AM in reply to Anon
      boo hoo
      • reply
        by Taxed To Death on Jun 29, 2012 at 02:54 PM in reply to
        I see we are already paying for you and your family.
        • reply
          by Anonymous on Jun 29, 2012 at 03:49 PM in reply to Taxed To Death
          No sorry the stereotype that anyone who supports this is on assistance is broken already.
        • reply
          by Earnest Lee Flippant on Jun 29, 2012 at 08:08 PM in reply to Taxed To Death
          How's that? You should explain.. maybe 'we' are already paying for 'you and your family'.. care to elaborate?
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jul 1, 2012 at 02:19 PM in reply to Anon
      This was Obama's primary goal. It was obvious that by passing the law people in college wouldn't be able to find a job in 2012. Think how great this will be to "20 somethings" in 2016 when the entire law is in place. 65 year old parents who can't afford to retire (*because their debt ridden children are unemployed and still living with them)
  • by Seymour Trindal Location: Eau Claire on Jun 29, 2012 at 09:40 AM
    Well now maybe we can get everyone back to work. Maybe all the people who say they can't work, but can drive cars, drink, and just plain run around, will be able to go to work. Or they should, but will they? I have seen enough of people finding any way they can to get on disability just to get free health care, while the elderly, are expected to carry health insurance to cover what medicare doesn't pay. There are so many people getting disability now, the people with severe disabilites are being left behind. I drive a 96 Ford, while some on disability drive 2011 cars. The hospitals look like health spas and charge for it. Something is wrong, hopefully this will help, finally.
  • by taxpaer on Jun 29, 2012 at 07:18 AM
    Liar in Chief President, that's all there is to say. Dictators do this to their countrymen. Congress Kind: liar Senator Kohl: Liar Obama doesn't enforce the law (immigration, DOMA,Fast & Furious), neither should Walker. Shut this tax DOWN!
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jun 29, 2012 at 11:37 AM in reply to taxpaer
      bla bla bla
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jun 29, 2012 at 12:54 PM in reply to taxpaer
      Yep...Next thing you know, He'll be tapping our phones and tell the public some country has weapons when they don't, just to start a war. Oh....wait....
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Jun 29, 2012 at 03:50 PM in reply to
        lol
      • reply
        by lin on Jul 1, 2012 at 04:27 AM in reply to
        Which "war" did he start? I guess I don't remember.
  • by Anonymous on Jun 29, 2012 at 07:06 AM
    Things about this "tax" that crack me up are: 1. You are exempt from enrolling if you are below national poverty level. That equates to the working class will continue to pay for the no loads health care (just like it is today, only gonna cost us a bit more in taxes!) 2. Fines will be imposed by the IRS, but they cannot with hold it from your return. They must sue you for it. Good luck with that! 3. Medicare rates WILL go up! I'm all for available health care for EVERYBODY, I just don't think this is the best way to go about it. I think this will turn out just like all the other government subsidies like heat assistance, rent assistance, electric assistance, food stamps, WIC, etc, etc and it will get abused to the point of total fraud, waste and uselessness. And all on the back of the taxpayers!
  • by anon Location: ec on Jun 29, 2012 at 06:38 AM
    Bdges; badges; we don't need no stinkin badges!
  • by anonymous Location: tomah on Jun 29, 2012 at 06:32 AM
    While all the political debate is going on I am looking forward to paying 4800.00 out of pocket a year for a medicine that I have to have. I can't get better insurance because of a pre-existing condition. Now walker says he won't implement anything until after the election. Everybody should appauld Obama for taking an initiative to try to help people instead of making this just another reason to argue about who's better than who. People that are enjoying good health have to realize your life can change overnight and what it feels like to live in fear of a medical condition daily and have the added stress of having doors to help shut because of discrimination towards pre-existing conditions.
    • reply
      by Earnest Lee Flippant on Jun 29, 2012 at 08:12 PM in reply to anonymous
      Walker's - once again - blowing smoke. Van Hollen has already confirmed that Wisconsin is obliged to follow the law.. and on a timely matter.
    • reply
      by B.O. on Jul 1, 2012 at 06:48 AM in reply to anonymous
      I don't know you but I am looking forward to paying for your $4,8000.00 a year medicine with Obamgunnasavemecare.
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