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Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012

Was Scott Walker For Obamacare Before He Was Against It?

Plus: Hero of the Week

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You just can’t please some people.

Gov. Scott Walker is playing a high-stakes game of chicken—a game that could seriously affect the state’s citizens and health care industry—by stalling on implementing the federal Affordable Care Act’s requirement that states set up health insurance exchanges. And as the days tick on, Walker will lose control of the health insurance marketplace, a huge loss for those who believe that Wisconsinites and our elected officials should be in charge of our destiny.

According to the Affordable Care Act, each state must create a health insurance exchange—in part to allow businesses and individuals to pool their numbers and receive lower prices from health insurance companies. If a state fails to deliver a blueprint to create an exchange by Dec. 14, the federal government will step in and take over the exchange. States can also choose to form a federal-state partnership; a blueprint of the state’s duties is also due Dec. 14.

Although he’s digging in his heels, Walker wasn’t always so stubborn on this point.

Indeed, one of his first acts as governor was to set up the Office of Free Market Health Care, which was supposed to begin implementing the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) in Wisconsin. In fact, the Walker administration, Republican legislators and members of the health care and insurance industries were working on the exchanges and other matters for months. Actually, more than 20 years ago, Republican legislators in Madison proposed versions of these health care exchanges with the active support of the business community. These days, they don’t want to admit in public that Obamacare has some merit, of course, but they did see the benefits of having local control over the state’s health care marketplace and they wanted to avoid allowing the federal government to call the shots in Wisconsin.

Indeed, the Assembly passed an Obamacare implementation bill last year, but it died in the state Senate. It wasn’t great, because it tilted toward the benefit of insurance companies, and they weren’t concerned with public input, but at least they were working on it. A bill implementing the health insurance exchanges never surfaced, but insiders were provided with a rough outline of the administration’s intentions.

Then, suddenly, Walker pulled the plug on the whole endeavor, somewhere around the time that he was raising unlimited out-of-state funds for his recall election. He shuttered the Office of Free Market Health Care and announced that the state wouldn’t move forward on the exchanges until after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the bill and the presidential election. And, in the process of waiting, he kissed $38 million in federal funds goodbye, too.

Now Walker’s lost his bet. The Supreme Court ruled that Obamacare is constitutional and President Obama won a huge electoral victory last week.

Walker has run out of excuses.

We’re torn between three choices: urging Walker and the GOP-led Legislature to begin implementing Obamacare—because we think, left to their own devices, they’ll design it to provide undue benefits to the insurance industry; letting the Obama administration take over the exchange; or having the federal government partner with Walker, since the federal government sees the benefits and rationale for the bill’s insurance exchanges and other consumer protections.

But one thing’s for sure. The Republicans talk about local control, yet they’re coming dangerously close to losing local control of one of the most important, transformative government programs of our lifetime. You just can’t please some people.

 

Heroes of the Week

Serve 60 Volunteers

Founded in Milwaukee by L. Maxwell McKissick in 2009, Serve 60 has grown into a nationally known grassroots initiative designed to increase service and volunteerism. Serve 60 encourages people to donate at least 60 minutes of their time throughout the year, with a focus on daylight-saving time weekends, when the organization asks everyone to donate the hour lost or gained to a nonprofit or the community. On Nov. 3, Serve 60 and its honorary brand ambassador, alternative rock singer Esh, joined forces with the Volunteer Center of Greater Milwaukee to bring together more than 1,000 volunteers to help older adults prepare their homes for winter. All of the volunteers, including Esh and her team, dispersed throughout Milwaukee neighborhoods to rake leaves and clean windows, winterizing close to 350 homes of older adults who had signed up for the program through Interfaith Milwaukee.

“We are very pleased that so many wonderful individuals took part in donating their extra hour from daylight-saving time and then some,” said McKissick, founder and board chairman of Serve 60. “All of the volunteers did a phenomenal job, and we couldn’t have asked for a better group.”

Serve 60 has many events and programs throughout the year and is always looking for volunteers. The organization’s website, www.serve60.com, also offers a searchable database of volunteer opportunities throughout the country that connects those who want to serve with those in need of volunteers. For those interested in volunteering with Serve 60, please call 414-389-9906 or email info@serve60.com. Monetary donations are also welcome and can be mailed to P.O. Box 510292, Milwaukee, WI 53203 at anytime or made on their website after Jan. 1, 2013. Serve 60 is also available on Facebook (www.facebook.com/pages/SERVE-60/82630677716) and Twitter (@SERVE60).