Wisconsin faces deadline on health care exchanges

Governor meeting with cabinet members
Wisconsin faces deadline on health care exchanges

Gov. Scott Walker has a week to decide whether to move ahead with part of the federal health care law or let the federal government do it for him.

Walker was in La Crosse on Thursday for a small-business summit, but he also addressed some of the decisions he’ll have to make following the re-election of President Barack Obama this week.

“Our decision point goes beyond my philosophical belief that I thought the Affordable Care Act was a bad idea for people in Wisconsin, but it is the law,” Walker said.

Walker had put on hold all efforts to implement state-run health care exchanges required by the president’s health care law in hopes Obama would lose and the law would be overturned. But Obama won and Democrats kept control of the Senate, meaning the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will continue to go into effect.

Wisconsin faces a Nov. 16 deadline to inform the Obama administration about whether the state will implement a health care marketplace, or exchange, or let the federal government do it.

“At some point, this is going to happen, and the governor has to go from political opposition of this issue to leadership and governing, and the time to act is now,” said Bobby Peterson, executive director for ABC for Health.

Peterson said state residents would be better-served by an exchange that is developed by Wisconsin stakeholders.

“We have a lot of folks that have thought about this issue and worked on this issue that have ideas to put on the table,” Peterson said. “To let this be developed by federal policymakers, I think, is a mistake.”

“There’s a part of me that looks at a state-run (exchange) and says, ‘I don’t want to give up anything I don’t have to (give up) to the federal government,’ just instinctively,” Walker said.

But Walker explained that he’s torn on the issue.

“It might be a better argument to let it be run by the federal government because the risk you run is if a state runs it and eventually money goes away from the federal government, you might expose state taxpayers to picking up more of that cost,” Walker said.

Walker says meetings with his cabinet will continue until next week.