Gov. Scott Walker made comments Wednesday hinting he may turn down a state-based health care exchange, a decision he will announce Friday morning.
In an interview with The New York Times Wednesday, Walker raised some concerns with a state-based exchange, as he said the federal government, not the state, would control how they are run.
“I’d much rather prefer control at the state level, but the problem is, I don’t think they are really state-run,” Walker told The New York Times. “Why do I want to take on the potential risk to my taxpayers if I don’t really have any true authority about what’s going to happen”?
Under President Barack Obama’s health care reform law, each state will have a health care exchange by January 2014, an online marketplace where uninsured people and small businesses can get insurance.
The deadline for states to decide on setting up their own exchanges is Friday, although the more complete details of the plans need to be sent to the federal government by Dec. 14. If they decide against a state-based exchange, the federal government will have a larger role in setting up the exchange.
Since Obama’s reelection, an unlikely coalition of groups, including insurers, business groups and consumer advocacy groups have pushed Walker to set up a state-based exchange, but Tea Party groups have told him he should oppose it.
A coalition of Tea Party groups sent Walker a letter earlier this week asking him to turn down a state-based exchange because the state would be paying for its creation and that there are still ways of challenging the law, despite a Supreme Court ruling this summer upholding it.
Walker has said repeatedly that he does not support the law, with Wisconsin being among the states that sued the federal government over the law. He had said he would wait for the Supreme Court ruling to decide on what his plans were for implementation.
When the court ruled the law constitutional in June, Walker said he would wait until the November elections, but major changes to the law seem unlikely, as Obama will be back for four years and the Democrats are in the majority in the Senate.
Earlier this week, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported nine Republican state legislators support legislation that would arrest federal workers who will work on implementing the law in the state.
Walker’s spokesperson Cullen Werwie said the governor does not support that position, according to The Associated Press.
ABC For Health Executive Director Bobby Peterson said it did not take much for Walker to distance himself from those “ridiculous” remarks. His group has been among those that have pushed Walker to support a state-based exchange, a position Peterson said aligns with public support.
“If Walker is reading the tea leaves, he is going to see that the majority of people in the state approve of it,” Peterson said. “He should start moving in that direction and figure out a way to make things work, but I’m skeptical [that he will].”
Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, said he is surprised about how intense the Tea Party’s opposition has been, as the law is a “moderate market-based solution.” The Tea Party’s view of nullifying a federal law, Kraig said, is one that was already settled with the end of the Civil War.
Kraig said despite the support for a state-based exchange from mainstream Republicans and business groups, people should not underestimate the influence of the Tea Party. As the Legislature would need to pass Walker’s state-based exchange plans, Kraig said the Tea Party’s strong opposition might force him to turn it down tomorrow.
“I know Gov. Walker had to distance himself from the idea of nullification, but he still may in fact turn down the exchange because of Tea Party opposition,” Kraig said. “If Gov. Walker turns down the exchange tomorrow, he is partially doing it because he doesn’t think he can get it through the Legislature.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.