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Walker moves to stabilize market amid new lawsuit (UPDATE)

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker signed into law on Tuesday a $200 million measure designed to stabilize Wisconsin’s health-insurance market under the Affordable Care Act, even though his fellow Republican, Attorney General Brad Schimel, was taking the lead on a new multi-state lawsuit to block the federal law.

Walker signed the reinsurance bill less than 24 hours after Schimel had joined 19 other states in filing a federal lawsuit in Texas. The lawsuit, which Schimel filed along with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, argues that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and that the entire Obamacare law should be blocked.

Walker and has argued for years that Obamacare should be repealed and replaced. But this year, as he faces re-election in November, Walker has pushed his reinsurance proposal as a way to stabilize Wisconsin’s health-care market and lower premium costs for the roughly 200,000 Wisconsinites who rely on the law to buy insurance.

After signing the bill on Tuesday, Walker planned to tour hospitals in Tomah and Green Bay.

The bill was passed with bipartisan support in the Legislature. It will now authorize the state to seek a federal waiver allowing it to offer a reinsurance program in which the government would essentially pay for between 50 percent and 80 percent of medical claims costing between $50,000 and $200,000.

Wisconsin would join various other states that already have such programs, such as Minnesota, Oregon and Alaska. Rates are at least 20 percent lower this year in Alaska and Minnesota, and about 7 percent lower in Oregon, insurance executives told Wisconsin lawmakers while the bill was being considered.

Horizon Government Affairs estimated that, if the program were put in place, rates in Wisconsin would drop 13 percent in 2019 and 12 percent in 2020.

Walker estimated his plan would cost $200 million, and that the state would pick up between $50 million and $80 million and the federal government the rest. The bill Walker signed on Tuesday does not specify where the state’s share of the money would come from.

Democrats have repeatedly called on Walker to accept federal money that Obamacare law offers to states to expand their Medicaid coverage. Walker has refused, though.

In the new lawsuit, Schimel and the other states argue that changes made by Congress to the federal health-care law have made it unconstitutional.

“Obamacare’s irrational design wreaks havoc on health insurance markets,” Schimel said in a statement. “Obamacare causes premiums to rise and coverage to fall, forcing Wisconsin and other states to take extreme, costly measures to protect their citizens’ health and pocketbooks.”

The lawsuit argues that because Republican lawmakers last year removed an Obamacare tax on those who don’t purchase health insurance, the law’s remaining individual mandate, and therefore the entire law, is unconstitutional.

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