Walker impedes progress again, with implemention of the Affordable Care Act

Ellen La Luzerne, Staff Writer

Walker is doing it again – ignoring laws, making secret plans and perhaps undermining Wisconsin citizens’ quality of life.

As of Nov. 16, all states must submit plans for implementing “Obamacare” as part of the core of the Affordable Care Act. Wisconsin is one of the Republican-controlled states that put off developing a plan in the hope that Mitt Romney would take over the White House.

Governor Scott Walker publicly declared that Wisconsin would not do any planning or take any action until after the election. Citizen Action of Wisconsin filed a number of open records requests in September, asking for e-mail exchanges and other records regarding the Walker Administration’s plans.  Citizen Action believes the Walker Administration has been developing plans in secret, without input from any health care or insurance providers. As of this writing, the Walker Administration has not disclosed plans for a health insurance exchange. However, Citizen Action obtained e-mails suggesting that top Walker Administration officials believe they can meet the deadline, but they have not decided whether or not to proceed.

The key item to be set up is a health insurance exchange system. If the state does not set up its own plan, the federal government will. Insurance exchanges should provide individuals and small businesses with “one-stop shopping,” to find and compare private health insurance options. Insurance exchanges will create transparency by setting standards for comparing plans based on price and quality. In theory, this should lower costs by increasing competition between insurance companies, and allowing individuals and small businesses to band together when purchasing insurance in order to demand certain terms and services.

The exchange will provide access to affordable health coverage for people who do not have good employer-based coverage, and either face discrimination or cannot afford coverage on their own. The population most benefited will be the 1.3 million Wisconsinites with pre-existing conditions that put them at high risk for denial of coverage, or excessive and unaffordable rates if they have to buy health insurance on their own.

While the Affordable Care Act is very far from perfect because of its continued reliance on the for-profit insurance industry, it is a small step in the right direction toward solving the health care crisis in the U.S.

However, Walker’s blatant disregard for laws, and his penchant for secret proceedings show his lack of regard for the citizens of this state. By refusing to discuss the issue in open or seek input from anyone other than his hand-picked cronies, it is doubtful that Wisconsin’s exchange system will prove to be useful and may even lean toward setting up the system for failure. This would not be the first time this type of maneuver has occurred under the Walker Administration. An example is the recent gerrymandering of legislative districts, resulting in a Republican majority in the senate, even while we elected Tammy Baldwin and Barack Obama as a state.

In the long run, Wisconsin will be better off allowing the federal government to take control of this process rather than permitting the Walker Administration to set up a system. Given Walker’s track record, and that this system is being devised in secret, it will most likely only serve the for-profit health insurance industry, leaving 1.3 million Wisconsinites with no better alternative.