By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers signed a pair of executive orders Tuesday designed to fulfill his campaign pledge to enable more people to take advantage of health care and insurance.
Without the support of the Republican Legislature, though, Evers will find it nearly impossible to get what he wants. The executive orders call on state agencies to make recommendations and take action, when they can, to protect people with pre-existing conditions, expand access to health care and make insurance less costly.
Any attempt Evers might make to expand the reach of Medicaid, as he had promised on the campaign trail that he would do, would require the Legislature’s approval. Evers would likewise need lawmakers’ blessing to drop Wisconsin’s involvement in a multi-state lawsuit seeking the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. And although Evers has called for protecting people with pre-existing conditions, he’s been lukewarm about legislative attempts to enact protections at the state level.
Evers and other Democrats have instead called for preserving the stronger guarantee that now exists in the federal health-care law popurlarly known as Obamacare.
One of his executive orders on Tuesday called for the state Insurance commissioner’s office, Department of Health Services and Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to make recommendations about increasing protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
The Republicans who control the state Assembly passed a state-level coverage guarantee for people with pre-existing conditions in 2017. But despite pleas from Walker for the Senate to pass it as well, the bill died last year because of a lack of support.
It may not fare any better this year.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said on Monday that he wants the bill to be the first one passed this year. But Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he didn’t want to “overpromise” and cast doubt on whether he would order such a proposal up for a vote.
Democrats generally oppose proposals to have the state offers protections to people with pre-existing conditions, saying that whatever is offered wouldn’t go as far as the federal law. For one, they note, only the federal government can regulate self-funded plans. That means people insured by more than 150 companies in Wisconsin would lose guaranteed coverage for pre-existing conditions if the Affordable Care Act were to be repealed.
The Evers order also calls on state agencies to make health-care plans less costly, provide more access and take steps to prevent attempts to undermine the Affordable Care Act marketplace using short-term plans that fail to comply with the law’s requirements.
Evers is also calling for the creation of insurance training for students and for requiring insurers to be transparent about health-plan costs, coverage and benefits.
The other order Evers signed on Tuesday calls on the state health department to find a way to ensure more people can take advantage of Medicaid and have access to high-quality, low-cost health care.
Evers campaigned on finding a way to offer the state’s BadgerCare Plus Medicaid coverage to about 75,000 poor people who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Walker approved a partial expansion of BadgerCare but stopped short of offering coverage to people living above the poverty line.
State law requires Evers to get the Legislature’s approval before Wisconsin could accept an expansion of Medicaid. According to some estimates, taking the federal money would save the state about $180 million a year.
Thirty-five states have taken the money, and voters in three others approved such an expansion in the November election.