Wisconsinites React to Efforts in Congress to Replace the Affordable Care Act

May 8, 2017

As Congress moves forward with efforts to replace the Affordable Care Act, some people in Wisconsin are holding their breath. They're uncertain -- or fearful -- about what to expect next.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, however, appeared confident last week. He said Congress would end former President Obama's Affordable Care Act.

"There is a fundamental and urgent choice at the heart of this debate," Ryan said, as the Wisconsin Republican persuaded colleagues before Thursday's vote.

"We can continue with the status quo, or we can put this collapsing law behind us. End this failed experiment," Ryan urged.

Ryan says the Affordable Care Act has caused "chaos," for instance, premiums that are climbing and insurance companies that are jumping ship.

Wisconsin's five Republican House members were in the slim majority approving the repeal. And GOP Gov. Scott Walker says he's pleased.

"I think it's important that they had to repeal, replace and reform that going forward," Walker said early in the day on Friday.

The governor also said that he was open to a controversial provision in the bill that would allow states to limit protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions. He suggested -- as an alternative -- Wisconsin could create a risk-sharing pool to help control out-of-pocket expenses. Walker says it’s something the state offered before the Affordable Care Act became law.

"We had a very effective program before. I think a lot of people were disappointed that Wisconsin was not allowed to have that under the Affordable Care Act, under Obamacare, and so that's something we certainly would consider, it depends on the conditions," Walker said.

Critics pounced on Walker, and by evening he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "we're not looking to change pre-existing conditions."

Kevin Kane was among those blasting Walker for suggesting he might allow insurance companies to boost costs for people with pre-existing conditions. Kane says such a change would affect him. He has a dangerous condition that threatens to blind him. It was something he developed as a recent college grad. Kane says he was able to seek treatment during the first flare-up because of the Affordable Care Act, and he considers the law to be a success.

"I was actually able to get the treatment for it because right before that happened, the part in the Affordable Care Act had kicked in where I could go back on my parents' health insurance," Kane said.

Kane joined others at a Citizen Action of Wisconsin rally outside of U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson's office. The organization hopes to convince Johnson to push back against the repeal bill when it reaches the Senate. Citizen Action’s Robert Kraig says the proposal has a number of damaging provisions. At the top of his list is the sheer number of people he says would lose coverage across the nation and here in Wisconsin.

"We know there are at least 225,000 people that buy coverage on the Affordable Care Act marketplace. We don't know exactly, because it will be state decisions what to do about the cuts, how that will play out, but it will definitely lead to a lot of people losing coverage," Kraig said.

Kraig says without the Affordable Care Act, insurance costs are likely to rise and become unaffordable, for many. He cites a study regarding premiums for 64-year-olds of moderate income. Kraig says it shows their annual premiums would jump from $1,500 to more than $11,000.