Gov. Scott Walker signed Senate Bill 770 into law February 27 during stops at Tomah Memorial Hospital and HSHS St. Mary’s Hospital Medical Center in Green Bay. The legislation, Act 138, is aimed at keeping local health care accessible and affordable by creating a state reinsurance program to stabilize rising health care premiums on the individual health insurance market.
According to the Governor, the bill became necessary after leaders in Washington failed to act on health care reform. WHA President/CEO Eric Borgerding echoed those comments. “WHA not only watched, but vigorously engaged with our federal elected officials over the past year as debate about the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act ebbed and flowed in Washington, D.C. Along with a diverse coalition of Wisconsin business and health care organizations, WHA called on Congress to act as the individual market became more unstable. We were disappointed when nothing was done to address these concerns.”
The legislation will allow the state Office of the Commissioner of Insurance to request a State Innovation (1332) Waiver to stabilize rising health care premiums in the individual market. The Governor’s administration estimates it will reduce premiums for those in the individual market by 13 percent in 2019 and 12 percent in 2020 using a combination of approximately $50 million state and $150 million in federal funds. The original bill provided state funding through a mandatory lapse from the Medicaid program.
WHA successfully lobbied the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) to remove this mandatory Medicaid lapse from the original bill. The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau stated the Department of Health Services had few ways to achieve these proposed savings necessitated by a mandatory lapse, but could resort to provider reimbursement cuts to find additional revenue to meet the lapse requirements. WHA applauded the JFC’s actions in a memo to state lawmakers supporting passage of the final bill.
In his remarks prior to signing SB 770, the Governor highlighted his recent visits to local hospitals where he spoke with patients about the importance of receiving quality, affordable care in their own communities. “By driving premiums down, it’ll make it more accessible for folks who had it, a number of whom even under the Obamacare exchange said they just couldn’t afford not just the premiums, but the copay. So this will help not only premiums go down, but it will bring more choices back in, more competition back in, and that’s really about access points to health care out there,” said Walker.
“WHA believes everyone should have access to high-quality, affordable health insurance, but it is clear that we cannot rely on solutions from the nation’s capital. We must take action at the state level to mitigate premium increases and ensure choice and affordability in the individual market,” said Borgerding. “We applaud Governor Walker’s leadership in developing, and the Legislature’s bipartisan support in passing, SB 770, which creates a reinsurance program aimed at sustaining coverage expansion in Wisconsin—a key priority for WHA in Madison and in Washington, D.C.”