With the president’s health care reform law likely staying intact, Gov. Scott Walker will decide by Nov.16 whether Wisconsin will run its own health care exchange.
Health care exchanges are online marketplaces where uninsured individuals and small businesses can look at and purchase health insurance plans. They will be up and running in each state by Jan. 1, 2014, regardless of whether a state wants them or not.
A state, the federal government or a partnership of the two can create and run the exchanges. Walker has until Friday to decide to set up a state-based exchange or until February to set up the partnership exchange. If he chooses neither, the federal government will set up a federally-facilitated exchange for Wisconsin.
States have until Friday to decide if they want state-based exchanges. However, the deadline for additional details on states’ plans was extended to Dec. 14, according to a letter from Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. This gives Wisconsin more time to work on its plans if it opts for a state-based exchange by Friday.
“We are committed to providing you with the flexibility, resources and technical assistance necessary to help you achieve successful implementation of your state’s Exchange and look forward to continuing to work with you as we implement the health care law,” Sebelius said in a letter to governors.
Last week, a group of Democratic lawmakers encouraged Walker to work with them to set up the state-based exchange. Various groups across Wisconsin have pushed for Walker to install a state-based exchange as well.
This includes groups like Wisconsin Citizen Action and ABC For Health, the Wisconsin Medical Society and the Wisconsin Hospitals Association and business groups like Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the Wisconsin chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, according to The Associated Press.
“We’ve maintained all along that a state-based exchange offers Wisconsin the best opportunity to preserve and build on the strengths of our competitive health insurance market,” said Phil Dougherty, senior executive officer of the Wisconsin Association of Health Plans.
A coalition of “Wisconsin Patriot Groups,” including various Tea Party chapters, released a statement Monday asking Walker to decide against state-based exchanges. The coalition said with a state-based exchange, Wisconsin would no longer be able to “challenge the law.” It also said the state, not the federal government, would be the one that pays for the creation of a state-based exchange.
The Supreme Court upheld most of the health care reform law earlier this year in a 5-4 decision. As for funding the exchange, Sebelius encouraged governors in her letter to “take advantage” of the funds the federal government is making available to them to help them with the law’s implementation.
Cullen Werwie, spokesperson for Walker, said last week the governor’s administration was meeting to decide what it would do. On Monday, he had no updates regarding their decision.
Robert Kraig, executive director of the citizen advocacy group Wisconsin Citizen Action, said it was likely Walker would choose state-based exchanges.
The real question, Kraig said, was whether the process between Nov. 16 and Dec. 14 would be “open,” with the consumer and stakeholder input that he said will be lacking in Walker’s decision on Friday.