Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), an ardent Affordable Care Act critic, is now encouraging residents to transition into new health plans under the very reform law that he once refused to help implement.
Walker told the Washington Examiner’s Philip A. Klein that he has instructed state agencies to work with individuals who are transitioning into plans offered on Wisconsin’s Obamacare marketplace. That includes both the previously uninsured and poor residents just above the poverty level who are being siphoned out of the state’s Medicaid program, BadgerCare, and into private ACA plans under Walker’s conservative alternative to Obamacare’s optional Medicaid expansion.
Just two years ago, Walker was singing a very different tune. He had refused to create a statewide ACA marketplace — thereby also forgoing significant federal funding for Obamacare outreach efforts — and said he wouldn’t lift a finger to help implement the law until the Supreme Court decided the law’s fate. In fact, Wisconsin’s spending on ACA outreach is the lowest in the nation at just 46 cents per capita.
Walker eventually went even further than that. He said that he wouldn’t do anything about the health law at all until after the 2012 November elections, in the hopes that Mitt Romney would win and repeal the law, making implementation efforts moot.
But now that Obama has been re-elected and the ACA is actually going into effect, Walker is admitting that it could provide a boost for many Wisconsinites. “I don’t want people to fall between the cracks,” said Walker in his Examiner interview. “[U]ntil we can change and come up with something better to replace the law, we still care about our constituents, we still want people to do well.”
It’s a tacit acknowledgment that Obamacare is actually a good deal for the more than half million uninsured state residents. Some of the poorer Wisconsin localities, such as Racine County, suffer from disproportionate numbers of early deaths and STDs and have higher rates of infant mortality.
“A lot of people think that Republicans like me would want to sabotage the law by making it hard or difficult for people to sign up,” said Walker. “I think that’s somewhat shortsighted by our critics, because what we care about more than anything are the people we represent.”
More than 71,000 Wisconsinites signed up for private plans through the state marketplace between October 1 and March 1, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).