In disappointing, but not altogether surprising news, Governor Scott Walker announced today that he will not be using the Early Innovator Grant for Exchange implementation. The grant was awarded to WI in 2010 by the federal government due to the promise we showed in developing model exchange IT. He is also revoking the Executive Order he used to establish the Office of Free Market Health Care, almost exactly one year ago. This position reversal follows reports late last month that the Governor’s Administration will not be moving forward with Exchanges until after the Supreme Court decides on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), likely not until late June.
This is particularly disconcerting news for Wisconsin women. As we have discussed many times on this blog, Exchanges have the potential to make health insurance options for women and their families in small businesses and the individual insurance market much easier to navigate and afford. For more on Exchanges, see our Exchange 101 guide.
Wisconsin has less than one year to get a state-specific Exchange approved by the federal government. Conditional approval options are contingent on Exchange establishment authorization, which in Wisconsin is expected to come in the form of state authorizing legislation. This gives the state next to no time to make the many critical decisions associated with Exchange development. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had a great opinion piece last week highlighting why the Governor should move forward on a Wisconsin-specific Exchange now – and we responded with a letter to the editor in agreement. We are not the only ones; insurers are looking for a state-specific exchange as well.
Funding through the Early Innovator grant enables Wisconsin to create an Exchange that works best for Wisconsinites, with little state financial burden. In these tough budget times, these are the opportunities we need to be seeking out, not turning down. Without a state-specific Exchange, the federal government will facilitate Wisconsin’s Exchange. We had hoped that this Governor would opt for less federal intervention in WI, rather than more – however the decision to give up federal funds and the time to plan and establish our own Wisconsin Exchange show a drastically different direction.
Raising Wisconsin Women’s Voices, through the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health, will continue to advocate for a strong Exchange in Wisconsin, which considers the unique climate and needs of our women and families. Health care reform implementation cannot wait on the political motivations and fluctuations of lawmakers, real Wisconsin families need the Affordable Care Act now.