Readers here at the Wisconsin 9/12 Project will remember that our state had a near-miss this past fall with AB 210, a bill that would have embedded Obamacare language in our state statutes.
Well...AB 210's author is back.
On February 2nd, Representative Kevin Peterson (R - Waupaca), Chair of the Assembly Committee on Insurance no less, sent an ominous press release full of scary stories. He insisted that if we don't bring AB 210 back and pass it by March 1, we're all going to have to go down to a yucky old federal office in Chicago for our independent insurance reviews instead of having them handled by state bureaucrats in Madison.
Yeah, it's a real piece of work. He cloaks his insistence on Obamacare compliance in a professed belief in the United States Constitution and the rule of law. Well, isn't that a neat little package of poo...?
Representative Petersen needs to knock it off.
FIRST OF ALL, do you know precisely how many people needed to use the independent insurance review process in Wisconsin last year...? Take a wild guess. Do you think it was 1,000? 5,000? 10,000? 50,000?
The real number was...drum roll please...about 120 reviews.
So, Representative Petersen would have the rest of us toss Wisconsin's state sovereignty to the wind, thoroughly undermine our healthcare freedoms, and muck up our lawsuit against Obamacare for what amounts to a small handful of people annually.
You'll pardon my saying so: That makes Representative Petersen not just daft but irresponsibly so. Incidentally, if you live in Assembly District 40, Petersen's "neck of the woods," I'd think twice. Do you really want this guy representing you if he's willing to flush your rights away that easily?
Late last week, Governor Scott Walker gave freedom-loving individuals all over Wisconsin reason to celebrate.
In a noteworthy turn of events, the governor announced on Thursday that he would sever a federal grant agreement that, for the past year, has bound Wisconsin to the planning and establishment of an Obamacare-compliant health insurance exchange. The $38 million dollar Early Innovator Grant has now been abandoned, all work on the insurance exchange has reportedly been permanently halted, and a formal letter has been sent from the State of Wisconsin to the Federal Department of Health and Human Services to make the state's position clear. In addition, the governor announced that he would soon be issuing an executive order that will dissolve the Office of Free Market Health Care--which, for the last year, has been facilitating stakeholdering and planning of the exchange.
On Saturday, the news got better still. It became clear in a JSOnline article that Governor Walker had opted to reject an additional $11 million in federal grant moneys, provided in conjunction with the Early Innovator Grant, for the purpose of integrating the state's Medicaid program into the compliant exchange. The clarity of vision in returning the Medicaid portion of the grant package is astounding. Not everyone understands the key role Medicaid is playing in Obamacare implementation in the states. But our governor apparently now does. He's even got Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dennis Smith out explaining the truth we've been conveying for the past several months: There is ultimately no such thing as a state exchange, only federal exchanges.
Savor all of this good news for a moment: Nearly the entire $49 million in federal health insurance exchange funding, minus a small amount that had already been drawn down, has now been rejected and abandoned. The moneys that groups such as the Wisconsin 9/12 Project and legislators like State Senator Frank Lasee have been warning about--money that threatened the state's sovereignty under the 10th Amendment and the individual healthcare freedoms of Wisconsinites--no longer poses a threat. And Wisconsin will no longer be helping the feds to implement the Obamacare exchange that was underway here. Truly, there is cause to celebrate. And we all should.
The NoStringsWisconsin campaign thought so, too, and released the following video on YouTube late last night.
Last week we brought to your attention a brief video that appeared on YouTube. It proposed a simple but creative way to drive home to Governor Walker and Wisconsin state legislators the need to sever the Early Innovator Grant (EIG) that the state accepted in February 2011. We encouraged you, our readers, to get on board and do what the video suggested.
Two more "No Strings" videos have now appeared, identifying further problems with keeping the EIG moneys. We know from the third video that there's at least one more string coming. So, "No Strings" turns out to be a bona fide campaign. A worthy one at that. Take a look...
Where the Situation Currently Stands
Just before Christmas, Governor Walker quietly announced that he would suspend work on Wisconsin's Obamacare-compliant health insurance exchange until the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on our lawsuit. In point of fact, Wisconsin needs to be seen as non-compliant by the time the Supreme Court hears arguments in March. Not after. Otherwise this state will continue to compromise its credibility on the question of constitutionality and undermine the overall integrity of the 26-state case, particularly on the severability issue. the clock is ticking.
Last month, I wrote about the claim of Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) that the Early Innovator Grant (EIG) Governor Walker accepted on behalf of the State of Wisconsin in February 2011 came with no strings attached. Those who've been following this issue already know that the EIG has strings o'plenty.
First and foremost, acceptance of EIG funds obligates recipient states to plan and implement an Obamacare-compliant health insurance exchange. That means Wisconsin has been in the process of implementing and complying with Obamacare for at least the past year. As noted in previous articles on this site, we've seen the evidence. Wisconsin's Obamacare compliant exchange is definitely well underway...much further than most people realize. If we don't do something about it soon, it will indeed be too late.
Someone has taken this reality to heart and raised the matter to a creative new level.
Remember back when the Tea Party got its start--how many people put tea bags into envelopes and sent them to elected officials? That concrete message, particularly in its sheer volume, was a powerful message. Everyone in Washington and in State Capitols around the country now knows that, while you may not like the Tea Party movement, it's out there, and can't be ignored.
The video below chooses a similar method for clearly messaging the EIG situation to legislators and the governor. And let's face it: It's about time legislators were pulled fully into this matter. We need them to be aware and engaged.
The document for download that the video references can be accessed here. They've also provided an instruction sheet in their description information, so we're providing that for you, too. We've talked about the EIG application guidelines that the video references. Those can be accessed here, just in case anyone wants to verify the claims made about the particular string the video highlights.
Can't wait to see what "Strings #2" contains, since there's really very little time to lose at this point. The EIG agreement must be formally severed, and it must be done by the time the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on Wisconsin's lawsuit in March.
Just before Christmas, the governor announced that he would suspend work on Wisconsin's exchange until after the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled on Obamacare's constitutionality, likely sometime in July. Again, Wisconsin is a party to that legal challenge. In suspending work, Governor Walker has finally begun to acknowledge that the exchange does place Wisconsin's credibility and the overall integrity of that court case at risk. That's a great first step, for which we applaud the governor.
On August 24, 2011 Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary Dennis Smith announced on Wisconsin Radio Network"We're already well under way designing an exchange that is uniquely Wisconsin!". His reasoning? Secretary Smith cited an actuarial study that indicated that health insurance rates in Wisconsin would skyrocket under PPACA and that if Wisconsin did not design it's own health insurance exchange, the federal government would swoop in an impose a federal exchange on Wisconsin. In that same radio interview, Dennis Smith indicated:
"If there's a federal exchange, I believe we will see a consolidation in the marketplace which will drive costs higher. We believe we need to preserve Wisconsin's competitive marketplace and design new ways in which we can increase competition even further to mitigate against these increased costs."
It's true. Wisconsin currently enjoys one of the most competitive health insurance marketplaces in the nation. It has 32 insurers that provide individual health coverage and 25 insurers that provide group coverage. Compare this to a state like Maine that has only two health insurance providers for residents to choose from.
Secretary Smith is right to be concerned because Wisconsin has so very much to lose as PPACA regulations go into effect. PPACA will mandate minimum coverage levels which will outlaw many policies written in Wisconsin aimed at providing minimal or catastrophic coverage at a very low cost. Wisconsin has several small insurers who specialize in such coverage. They will be unlikely to continue with their current business plan in the years to come. Exchange or not, they will be squeezed out of the market place.
Wisconsin also has insurers specializing in so called "Cadillac Plans" which provide excellent coverage with minimal co-pays and deductibles, but which cost a premium in terms of rates. PPACA will put pressure on these plans by dictating maximum rates for plans. Insurers offering these products will necessarily need to discontinue them or raise co-pay and deductible requirements. Over time, they will start to look like every other policy. Insurers that mainly deal with such policies will also be squeezed out of the market.
On the Wisconsin Radio Network, Secretary Smith indicated his concern:
"We're very concerned about how heavily that exchange is regulated and hopefully we can get relief on that."
The state has applied for several waivers to get just such relief and surprise, surprise, no relief has come!