Internal documents shed light on Walker decision
Now that President Obama has been re-elected, the Walker Administration faces a major deadline for a core element of the Affordable Care Act. The statutory deadline for submitting Wisconsin’s blueprint for a new health insurance exchange is November 16.
Governor Scot Walker took the public position after the U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the law that Wisconsin would not to do any planning or take any action until after the election. Amid indications that the Walker Administration may be secretly working on a blueprint for a Wisconsin health insurance exchange, without any input from health care advocates and other stakeholders, Citizen Action of Wisconsin filed multiple open records requests in September. Although the Walker Administration has to date not provided recent information on the plan for a health insurance exchange, citing various exclusions including attorney-client privilege, Citizen Action did obtain emails which shed light on the critical decision.
Internal emails obtained by Citizen Action of Wisconsin suggest that top Walker Administration officials believe they can meet the deadline, but have not decided whether or not to proceed. In a key email Department of Health Services Secretary Dennis Smith asks J.P. Wieske, the Legislative Liaison & Public Information Officer for the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance: “Are you all prepared to say that based on the outcome of Nov 6, we will meet the Nov. 16 date? Thanks Dennis.” The email was copied to both Insurance Commissioner Ted Nickel and Deputy Commissioner Dan Schwartzer. Wieske responds to Secretary Smith: “We think we can be ready to file by Nov 16th, if there is interest in moving forward.”
This vital decision, which must be made in the next 9 days, will determine whether Wisconsin builds its own state health insurance exchange or whether the federal government does it for us. The design of this new competitive health marketplace is critically important. The exchange will provide high quality affordable health coverage for Wisconsinites who do not have good employer-based coverage, and either face discrimination at the hands of the insurance industry or cannot afford coverage on their own. The population most benefited will be the 1.3 million Wisconsinites with pre-existing conditions which put them at high risk for the denial of coverage, or excessive and unaffordable rates, if they every have to buy health insurance on their own.
“Now that the election is over and the Affordable Care Act will be implemented, it is time for the Walker Administration to stop playing political games with the health of Wisconsin’s citizens,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “The new health insurance exchanges, along with the expansion of Medicaid (BadgerCare), will guarantee for the first time that everyone can control their own health care decisions and will have the peace of mind of knowing that there is a place to go, no matter what, to get quality affordable coverage.”