MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Health care advocates in Wisconsin derided the Republican plan to overhaul the federal health care law on Tuesday saying it will increase the ranks of uninsured, while Gov. Scott Walker called it “an important first step” but signaled that more work needs to be done.
Walker, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, has been working closely with President Donald Trump’s administration, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, of Janesville, while balancing concerns of GOP governors who want to retain portions of the current law.
The proposal would limit future federal funding for Medicaid, which covers more than 1 million low-income people in Wisconsin, repeal the unpopular “Obamacare” fines on people who don’t carry health insurance and replace income-based subsidies with age-based tax credits that may be skimpier for people with low incomes.
Introduction of the bill “is an important first step to lower costs and increase choices for Americans in need of health care,” Walker said in a statement Tuesday. “We will continue working with the Trump Administration, the Congress, and governors across the country, as we seek a personalized, patient-centered plan that treats people as humans and not like numbers.”
Walker was part of a group of seven GOP governors who were advocating for giving states more control over their federal Medicaid money, including per-capita caps. Walker did not comment on whether the proposal went far enough, but took to Twitter to offer general praise.
“Medicaid reforms in @HouseGOP plan send power back to the states,” Walker tweeted.
Walker has been advocating for a national approach that mirrors what he did in Wisconsin. Walker rejected $500 million in federal Medicaid expansion money, but extended coverage to everyone at or below the poverty level, including childless adults who previously were on a waiting list.
People who earned more than the poverty level — which is currently $11,880 a year for a single adult without children — were forced to purchase highly subsidized insurance through exchanges created under the current law.
The federal plan rewriting the 2010 Affordable Care Act, the signature legislative achievement of former President Barack Obama, drew criticism from health care advocates in the state.
“It’s not as bad as it could be, but it’s pretty bad,” said Bobby Peterson, executive director of ABC for Health, a nonprofit Madison law firm that helps people get health care. He called the bill a “step backwards.”
Peterson said one of the most concerning elements of the proposal is that it would limit total federal Medicaid funding to a formula taking into account enrollment and costs in each state.
“I see health care rationing and health care segregation,” Peterson said.
Jon Peacock, research director for Wisconsin Children and Families, said the plan “would very significantly increase the number of people in Wisconsin who are uninsured.”
“We are especially concerned that it will increase health care costs for seniors and low-income families, and will begin a process of substantially cutting federal funding for Medicaid,” he said.
Ryan defended the measure he helped write, saying it will “drive down costs, encourage competition, and give every American access to quality, affordable health insurance.”
House committees planned to begin voting on the legislation Wednesday. Democrats are objecting to moving that quickly, given that there is not an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office of how much the bill will cost and how many people will have health coverage. Fewer people are expected to be covered under the House GOP bill compared to the Affordable Care Act.
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