Gov. Scott Walker announced Friday morning that Wisconsin won't be developing its own insurance exchange and will leave that task up to the federal government.
The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- a.k.a. "Obamacare" -- mandates that states set up an insurance exchange or let the federal government do it for them. An exchange is a place where consumers and business can shop for health care plans, and also get help from advocates who understand the process. It would also help companies, by clearly defining what is required by law. The idea was originally proposed by conservative think tanks as a way of using the marketplace to help health care consumers, by fostering competition within clearly established rules.
In his letter to Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, Walker complains that the state is at the mercy of federal policy regardless of what it does. "No matter which option is chosen, Wisconsin taxpayers will not have meaningful control over the health care policies and services sold to Wisconsin residents."
Walker adds, "After much consideration and outreach with citizens across the state, and in the best interest of the taxpayers of Wisconsin, we have determined Wisconsin will not develop a partnership or state-based exchange."
Robert Kraig, executive director of the Citizen Action of Wisconsin, says "It is amazing that we're actually turning this down."
"It's pretty astounding that we're in a situation where tea party extremists who think we should nullify federal law have more influence with Gov. Walker than every health care advocate in the state," Kraig says.
Walker, he says, is "opposed to shifting the balance from the insurance companies to consumers. Exchanges put consumers in the driver's seat."
Nevertheless, Kraig says, Wisconsinites are probably better off with the federal government running the exchange than Walker. "We're probably better off with a federal exchange than with Walker trying to undermine it."
Today was the deadline for states to declare whether they will establish their own exchange, let the federal government do it, or do so in a partnership. Yesterday, the federal government extended the deadline by a month.
But Walker apparently didn't need the extra time.
Read his complete letter.