To protect Wisconsin from King v. Burwell, Walker should follow Pennsylvania’s lead

The state of Pennsylvania isn’t leaving anything to chance.

Last Friday, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf outlined his plan to protect Pennsylvanians from the potential of losing vital health care subsidies should the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority rule to gut the Affordable Care Act in the King v. Burwell case. The court is expected to issue its final ruling in June 2015.

The precautions being taken by Pennsylvania are in stark contrast to Governor Scott Walker’s refusal to take any precautions against a predictable disaster. Walker’s inaction threatens health coverage for over 184,000 Wisconsinites, many of them either forced off BadgerCare by Walker or with pre-existing conditions that made them uninsurable before the passage of health care reform.

A quick refresher: The controversial King v. Burwell case will decide whether residents of states in the federal insurance marketplaces (like Wisconsin) can continue to receive federal subsidies to ensure healthcare is affordable. This case, brought by a conservative think tank which seeks to reverse health reform, claims that the Affordable Care Act’s language limits subsidies only to states which chose to set up a state-based marketplace.

Of course, there is a very simple solution: Congress can pass a law clarifying this language. But with Republicans now in control of both houses of congress, the likelihood they will act to prevent disaster is slim to none.

penn.jpgThat’s why the news from Pennsylvania is so important. With 382,000 facing a loss of subsidies should the Supreme Court rule unfavorably, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf is taking proactive action to prevent a worst-case scenario.

From The Hill:

Wolf’s plan calls for Pennsylvania to set up its own insurance marketplace if the court rules against the Obama administration in the case King v. Burwell. The case could revoke subsidies that help 7.5 million people afford healthcare coverage, but only in the roughly three-dozen states relying on the federal marketplace.

If Pennsylvania sets up its own marketplace, as 13 other states have, subsidies there would continue to flow.

“In order to protect 382,000 Pennsylvanians from potentially losing subsidies that help them afford health care coverage, I have written to the federal government outlining a contingency plan to set up a state-based marketplace to ensure no one loses their health coverage,” Wolf said in a statement.

While this common sense back-up plan seems like a no-brainer, Governor Walker continues sitting on his hands. Research by Citizen Action of Wisconsin shows that Walker’s inaction is leaving over 184,000 Wisconsinites receiving affordable care for the first time at risk of losing access.

More from The Hill:

“Many of the states that could lose subsidies have Republican governors who are struggling to figure out what to do if the court rules for the challengers. Their citizens’ face the loss of subsidies, but Republicans in general remain strongly opposed to ObamaCare.”

Make no mistake, Governor Walker’s “struggle” is all about politics. Despite ObamaCare’s rising popularity, Walker’s likely presidential run means he has little interest in alienating the far-right of the Republican base by appearing reasonable on Obamacare, including passing a similar contingency plan for Wisconsin.

As the final verdict in King v. Burwell draws near, Citizen Action will continue pressuring Governor Walker to take action and hold him accountable for his failure to protect Wisconsinites from a potentially catastrophic decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

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