September 1, 2014

Wisconsin defers to feds on health exchange

Wisconsin will let the federal government set up a health insurance exchange required under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Governor Scott Walker on Friday sent a letter to federal health officials stating that Wisconsin has opted against setting up a state-based exchange or working on one in partnership with the federal government. Instead, Walker said the state will defer to the federal government’s insurance exchange.

In a call with reporters, Walker said the decision was based on his view that the state-based exchanges are “state in name only,” because the federal government has the final decision over most of the key aspects of the system. The governor believes leaving control up to the federal government will help protect taxpayers from being forced to pay for decisions that will ultimately be out of their hands.

The governor admits the decision is not a guarantee taxpayers will be free from costs associated with setting up an exchange, noting that mandates from other federal programs have still been passed on to the states. He argues that not being a direct party could protect the state from immediate exposure though.

Critics accused the governor of bowing down to pressure from right-wing groups. Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said the decision “puts politics above health care for Wisconsin citizens,” while the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health called it a “missed opportunity.”

Several Republicans and Tea Party groups have urged the governor to take steps to block implementation of the federal health care law. Even though Walker opposes “Obamacare,” he says the state will still comply with the law while going with the option that “provides the greatest amount of security, the greatest amount of protection, for the taxpayers of Wisconsin.”

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:01)