Richards demands Van Hollen report on attorney time being devoted to politically-driven lawsuit
Madison — State Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee), member of the Joint Committee on Finance and Chair of the Assembly Committee on Health and Health Reform, urged Governor-elect Scott Walker and Attorney General J.B Van Hollen to stop preparing a politically-motivated lawsuit to halt implementation of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Richards is also calling on Van Hollen to report to the legislature on the amount of attorney time the Office of the Attorney General is using to work on the lawsuit.
The Federal Act has resulted in new protections for Wisconsin health insurance consumers that forbid insurance companies from blocking coverage because of a pre-existing condition like diabetes, leukemia or cancer or because someone has reached their life-time limit for health insurance coverage.
In a memo to Representative Richards, the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates that the Federal health reform law will result in Wisconsin realizing $365 million in GPR savings over the next five years for Wisconsin’s Medicaid and BadgerCare programs for children, mothers and low income residents.
“That’s just the tip of the iceberg. GOP plans to cut BadgerCare funding or access could violate federal maintenance of effort requirements which could jeopardize Wisconsin’s entire federal payment for Medicaid reimbursement,” Richards said. Wisconsin currently receives over $4.0 billion from the federal government for Medicaid services like BadgerCare.
“Walker and Van Hollen appear to be more interested in lawsuits for political grandstanding than in doing right by Wisconsin patients. The entire state government, including the Attorney General’s office, is tightening its belt. Instead of using the limited attorney time available in the Attorney General’s office to protect health insurance consumers, the Attorney General is burning up attorney time to blow a massive hole in our budget, cost Wisconsin consumers the ability to get health insurance coverage when they need it most, and cost Wisconsin small businesses the ability get health insurance at rates that large firms can negotiate,” Richards said.
Richards also noted that federal judges in Michigan and Virginia have already dismissed similar attempts to challenge the health reform act. The judges found that the duly-enacted federal law complies with long-held interpretations of the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.
Even yesterday’s decision by a federal judge in Virginia upheld most of the law, striking down only the section mandating insurance coverage. Van Hollen needs permission from the governor or one house of the legislature to file such a suit and Walker has said that he plans on providing his blessing as one of his first acts as governor.