By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker’s latest television ad released on Tuesday features a doctor touting the Republican’s support for a plan meant to stabilize the health-insurance market but ignores his yearslong attempt to undercut the federal law commonly known as Obamacare.
Critics are accusing Walker of being a hypocrite for now supporting a plan intended to stabilize insurance markets after he’s spent years trying to repeal the federal health-care law, which was championed by President Barack Obama and other Democrats.
The advertisement from Walker is the fifth to run during his re-election campaign, all of which are part of a roughly $1.5 million statewide ad buy. The ads run by Walker so far have exclusively discussed his record, particularly on bipartisan priorities like fighting opioid abuse and helping the disabled find work.
None of the 10 Democrats vying for a chance to take on Walker has run a television ad yet. The primary is scheduled for Aug. 14.
The new ad for Walker talks mainly about a $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 market for health insurance. The legislation comes, though, after Walker had for years worked to repeal the national Affordable Care Act and reject 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 Melanie Conklin, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Democratic Party.
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 call for a different system.
Walker’s campaign spokesman Austin Altenburg said on 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 more adults would have been covered under the state’s BadgerCare program than are now.
The state would have also saved more than $1 billion between 2014 and 2019 because the federal money Walker rejected would have paid for health care that was instead covered using state money.
Walker’s new reinsurance plan relies on the federal government to pay for the majority of the initiative’s cost — about $166 million. The rest would come from unspecific savings in the state’s Medicaid program.
Walker has promised that once the initiative is in effect, health-insurance premiums for plans sold on the private market in Wisconsin will go down by 5 percent in 2019. 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 lower in Oregon. Those are the only three states that now have 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.”