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Walker: Federal waiver approved for reinsurance program

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The federal government has granted Gov. Scott Walker’s request to offer a reinsurance policy designed to lower premium rates for most people in the individual market in 2019.

The federal waiver will allow Wisconsin to offer a $200 million reinsurance policy, which Walker said will stabilize the market and attract more insurance providers to the private marketplace.

“We’re thrilled,” Walker told The Associated Press.

He said premiums will go down by an average of 3.5 percent in 2019, after showing a 44 percent jump this year as a result of there being fewer providers and declines in enrollment.

The premium increase “was just not sustainable,” Walker said. “A 3.5 decrease is a great start to go down as opposed to going up.”

Walker’s administration filed the request with the federal government in April. Walker said President Donald Trump’s administration notified him on Thursday the waiver would be granted. Walker formally signed the waiver on Sunday in Green Bay.

Walker said many private insurers have been waiting for the approval and will now enter the marketplace.

“Premiums will go down, it will be more stable and will get us to the point of more choices,” he said.

TJ Helmstetter, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Democratic Party, countered that, contrary to what Walker says, insurance premiums are actually going up.

“Because of GOP sabotage of the health care law — sabotage which Scott Walker supported — people are paying more than they would have otherwise, period. So even if increases are mitigated with Walker’s reinsurance program, people are still paying more,” Helmstetter said in a news release on Sunday.

The reinsurance policy will have the government providing money that, starting next year, will let health-insurance providers pay only about 50 percent of the cost of medical claims coming in at between $50,000 and $200,000.

The state’s share under the 5-year program would be $34 million annually, and the federal government would pick up $166 million, the governor said.

Walker has long criticized the national health-care law known as the Affordable Care Act and has rejected federal money to expand Medicaid.

Walker, who is up for re-election in November, pushed for the reinsurance proposal and the Legislature passed a bill authorizing the policy. Democrats have called it an election-year attempt by Walker to disguise how damaging his opposition to the Affordable Care Act has been.

There were 227,000 people who were using the private marketplace in 2017 to enroll in national health-care plans, but that dropped to just over 202,000 this year.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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