Differing Opinions in Wisconsin as House Prepares to Vote on Health Care Bill

Mar 22, 2017

It’s been a little more than two weeks since House Republicans unveiled their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have lined up to blast it. Yet, Speaker Paul Ryan says the House will vote on an updated version Thursday.

In the meantime, Citizen Action Wisconsin, a liberal advocacy group, continues its fight against the GOP measure. The group claims the plan would lead to dramatic increases in health insurance premiums for many state residents.

Speaker Paul Ryan spent much of Tuesday selling the House GOP plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. The Wisconsin congressman has been at the center of the debate and urged colleagues to back the measure. Ryan says he’s confident enough will, when the House votes Thursday.

“At the end of the day, it really is a choice. Do you want to stick with the Obamacare status quo, do you want to stick with the idea that we made a promise and we’re not going to keep it? Or, do we want to replace this bill with clearly a much, much better law?” Ryan asks.

Ryan is touting recent updates to the bill, designed to make it more palatable for conservative critics. He says the proposal includes provisions they called for, such as a "massive" tax cut and the "most pro-life" legislation in years.

Some of Ryan’s political allies have come to his side, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a long-time confidant. On Tuesday, he said the bill is moving in the right direction.

“Obamacare is collapsing and that would be a disaster for the state and this nation if it continued. Plus, these are the promises that the president and members of the House and Senate made is that they’re going to repeal Obamacare. I like the fact that they are making a series of changes that I think improve it,” Walker says.

But Ryan might not be able to rely on support from fellow Wisconsinites on Capitol Hill. Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner has spoken out in favor of a repeal, although he says it may evolve before it's final. The state's other GOP House members have not indicated whether they're on board.

>> Find Out Where Your Member of Congress Stands On The Health Care Bill

Meanwhile in the Senate, Wisconsin's Ron Johnson sharply criticized the House bill on Tuesday. The Republican says he has a lot of problems with the measure the way it’s currently written, and doubts a replacement plan will pass this year.

Also Tuesday, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, a liberal-leaning group, released numbers it hopes provide fodder for the critics. The group's new report focuses on how the House replacement would impact premiums for older adults in the state. The study shows that in Milwaukee, the average 64-year-old pays about $1,500 per year under the ACA; if the replacement bill passes, premiums would jump to $11,000. 

“These numbers are striking and literally will cause a lot of low income people in their 60s to have to go without health insurance or to choose between this and housing and food. These premiums are entirely unaffordable and there’s a dramatic difference,”  Robert Kraig says. He's the groups executive director.

Kraig says the GOP replacement plan would hit older adults, who are most susceptible to serious health issues, the hardest.

The state of Wisconsin is also working on its own report. The Department of Health Services says it intends to determine what the replacement plan would mean for thousands of Wisconsinites who currently purchase health insurance through the ACA.