After Gov. Scott Walker proposed a move to delay removing 77,000 people from BadgerCare earlier this month, Republican legislators introduced a bill that would require involvement from lawmakers before establishing a state health insurance exchange.
Bill sponsor Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, said the bill looks more at the long-term and would ensure legislators are involved in making decisions about health care, instead of policy changes being made solely by the governor or one state agency.
“What Rep. [David] Craig [R-Big Bend] and I realized [was] that many of the agencies had the authority to lay the groundwork for an exchange, and the governor had the ability to make that decision without legislative oversight as well,” Vukmir said. “We thought that it was important that the people through their legislative representatives be part of the process of creating an exchange.”
The bill’s introduction follows Gov. Scott Walker’s announcement last week calling for a special session to delay BadgerCare deadlines. Walker also wrote to federal officials asking to allow Wisconsinites to buy insurance outside the federal health care exchange.
Fellow bill sponsor Rep. Andre Jacque, R-DePere, said the bill restored a check for the legislative branch on the executive branch, and added the bill seeks to involve the legislative branch more in a decision on health care exchanges should the time come for such a decision.
While a number of co-sponsors have signed off on their support for the bill, Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, said he would not.
“Looking at the merits, I don’t see the merits of the bill,” Risser said. “[Vukmir’s] doing everything she can to blast Obama and health care and anything she does would be suspect, quite frankly. I question the intent and the guts and implementation of the bill. The intent is one thing and the wording and implementation is another.”
Rep. Daniel Riemer, D-Milwaukee, said the bill seems like a way to put up an obstacle to establish a state exchange, which he said is opposite direction Wisconsin should be heading.
“We want to make health care suitable for the state of Wisconsin available to all the people that need it, and right now, we’re making a lot of decisions right now that are taking us in a different direction,” he said.
Vukmir said Walker could decide to create an exchange unilaterally, but the bill would require involvement from lawmakers to ensure the people of Wisconsin have a voice in the process.
She added the inspiration for the bill came after legislators saw Wisconsinites were left out of the process.
However, Risser said he was still unsure as to what Vukmir’s reasoning for the bill was.
“I’m not sure what the reason for this is,” Risser said. “We still have a Legislature and a governor, and I really don’t know what she plans to gain by this. I don’t understand the intent clearly or the implementation clearly.”
Craig could not be reached for comment.