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Walker emphasizes health insurance plan in latest ad



MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker’s latest television ad released Tuesday features a doctor touting the Republican’s support for a plan to stabilize the health insurance market but ignores his yearslong attempt to undercut the federal law designed to broaden access to insurance coverage.

Democrats accuse Walker of being a hypocrite for supporting the plan to stabilize insurance markets after he’s spent years trying to repeal the federal health care law championed by President Barack Obama.

The ad from Walker is the fifth ad of his re-election campaign, all of which are part of a roughly $1.5 million statewide ad buy. Walker has run all positive spots focused on his record, particularly on bipartisan issues like fighting opioid abuse and helping people with disabilities find work.

None of the 10 Democrats vying for a chance to take on Walker has run a television ad yet. The primary is Aug. 14.

The new Walker spot focuses on his $200 million reinsurance plan that won bipartisan support in the Legislature earlier this year. Once approved by the federal government, it’s expected to lower insurance premiums starting in 2019 and attract more providers to the state.

The goal is to stabilize the private health insurance market, a move Walker made after years of promising to repeal the national Affordable Care Act and rejecting federal money to expand Medicaid.

“For Walker to pretend to be anything other than the anti-health care governor, given all he’s done to undermine it, is simply ridiculous,” said Wisconsin Democratic Party spokeswoman Melanie Conklin.

In the ad, Walker says he introduced the reinsurance plan “because we can’t wait for Washington to get the job done.” He’s repeatedly denied Democrats’ claims that he’s a hypocrite on this issue, saying that he’s working to stabilize the market and lower costs while continuing to advocate for a different system.

Walker’s campaign spokesman Austin Altenburg said Tuesday that the governor’s ad and his position on Obama’s health care law “are as clear as ever — Washington is failing to get the job done, and that means repealing and replacing Obamacare with market-based solutions to increase choices and bring costs down.” Altenburg said Walker “will continue to deliver real solutions for hard-working families with his bipartisan health care plan and other reforms to keep moving Wisconsin forward.”

The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimated that if Wisconsin had accepted the full Medicaid expansion in 2014, about 70,000 additional adults would have been covered under the state’s BadgerCare program.

The state would have also saved more than $1 billion between 2014 and 2019 because federal money Walker rejected would have paid for health care costs that he instead had to use state taxpayer funding to cover.

Walker’s new reinsurance plan relies on the federal government paying for the majority of the program’s cost — about $166 million. The rest would be paid for through unspecific savings in the state Medicaid program.

Walker has promised that once in effect, health insurance premiums for plans sold in the private market in Wisconsin will go down 5 percent in 2019, after they increased 44 percent this year as enrollments dropped and fewer providers offered coverage.

Rates are at least 20 percent lower this year in Alaska and Minnesota, and about 7 percent less in Oregon, the only three states with a reinsurance program. There was also a reinsurance program under the federal health care law for its first three years.

The same day Walker signed the bill into law, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, a Republican, filed a federal lawsuit with 19 other states challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care law. Walker authorized the lawsuit.

Democratic gubernatorial candidates blasted Walker for the ad.

“This ad is a bait-and-switch,” said state Rep. Dana Wachs, from Eau Claire. “As soon as Walker gets what he wants, he’ll go right back to dismantling our healthcare system.”

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