Walker says Obama, federal government must fix subsidies

AP News
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Posted: Jun 24, 2015 6:16 PM

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — If the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down health care subsidies available under federal law, it's up to President Barack Obama and Congress to fix it — not the states, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Wednesday.

Walker, who is expected to launch his run for president in mid-July, wrote an opinion piece and answered questions about the issue following a bill signing ceremony in Milwaukee. The Supreme Court is expected to rule this month on whether subsidies under the 2010 law can continue to go to Wisconsin and 33 other states that use the federal HealthCare.gov website and don't run their own insurance exchanges.

Walker, who has called for a repeal of the health care law, was asked what his contingency plan was if the subsidies are struck down.

"President Obama created the problem, the previous Congress created the problem, they should fix it. As usual, they're going to want to kick the problem to the states and we're not going to take it," Walker said.

About 183,000 people in Wisconsin purchase their insurance through the exchange and nine out of 10 of them are receiving a federal subsidy, according to an analysis of state data by Wisconsin Children and Families. The average tax credit they receive is $315 a month.

Health care advocates who have been critical of Walker for not taking federal money to pay for expanding Medicaid coverage have also called on the Republican second-term governor to prepare for the subsidies to be taken away.

"It's Scott Walker's moral responsibility as governor to protect the people from a foreseeable disaster, like tens of thousands being cut off from health coverage," said Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. "By passing the buck to Congress, Walker is putting at risk the lives and fundamental freedoms of people in every corner of Wisconsin."

Research director Jon Peacock and policy analyst Sashi Gregory said in a report released last week that Wisconsin should quickly accept the federal money to expand Medicaid coverage and more to create a state-run marketplace that qualifies for subsidies, they said.

Walker said anyone concerned about losing coverage should contact Obama and their federal representatives.

"They should contact their member of Congress and say, 'Stop blaming people that didn't create the problem,'" Walker said. "'You're at the federal government, step up, start leading, fix the problem you created.'"

Republicans in Congress have been divided over what their response to the lawsuit should be. Some conservatives say the statute's subsidies should be completely ended and the law dismantled. Many Republicans say a complete overhaul would have to await the 2016 elections, when the GOP hopes to capture the White House and retain congressional control.

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