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Governor blasts budget chairs over self-insurance decision

Republican leaders to reject self-insurance switch

MADISON, Wis. - Gov. Scott Walker says he is "shaking his head" at news that chairs of the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee say they intend to reject his plan to shift the state to a self-insurance program.

In comments to reporters in Appleton, Walker said he did not understand why lawmakers would not want to go along with the plan, which he believes could save $60 million.

"That’s one of those where I just shake my head and wonder: At a time when there are many in the Legislature talking about wanting to spend more on transportation, why would they give up $60 million of savings?" Walker said.  

Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, told reporters they still had concerns on Monday after reviewing contracts provided by the Department of Employee Trust Funds that would change health insurance for public employees.

"I looked through the contracts last night, the contractual language, but there's really no 'there' there as far as how do they even come up with the estimates," Nygren said.  "There's no percentage in there that explains how they actually came up with the number they came up with."

The Walker administration has said it believes it can realize $60 million in savings by shifting the state's health insurance program from the current system of 18 different HMOs to a program in which it would pay directly for patient care. Lawmakers have been skeptical of that amount, and have also been concerned about how shifting state and local public employees could disrupt insurance markets in the state.

"I just think there's not convincing evidence we need to do that right now, " Darling said.

Finance will have to hold an up-or-down vote on the contracts, but leaders said they intend to continue to find savings in the health care plans that would not blow a hole in the current state budget as proposed.

"We're not saying no to savings," Nygren said. "We're going to find a similar amount of savings in some way, shape or form."

But in a tweet late Tuesday, Walker disagreed.


"Unless lawmakers want to cut health care coverage for state employees, there is NOT $60 million in savings without self-insurance plan," Walker said in a tweet on his official account.

 Nygren quickly shot back a question about reserves he believes may be in place at the Department of Employee Trust Funds.

 "Will be interested to find out how multimillion $$ reserves at ETF were built. Was this from state workers?" Nygren tweeted. 


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