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Wisconsin, betting against health reform, halted HIX work


By: 
Tom Sullivan

Wisconsin actually started, then stopped, building a health insurance exchange (HIX). But as the GOP presidential candidates gear up for Tuesday’s primary -- and the Supreme Court mulls its decision on the the Affordable Care  Act (ACA) -- the health reform law and its insurance exchanges aren't the only things with a questionable future in the Badger State.

On June 5 Wisconsin will hold a recall election, its first, targeting Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, and three GOP state senators. At the center of that controversy are relations with state workers.

It was Walker who in January stopped the HIX work, and returned the $37 million HIX funding to Washington. Republicans are saying that the best approach is to wait and see how the Supreme Court rules on last week’s hearings concerning the ACA, according to reports in the state, while Democrats maintain that gamble will only put Wisconsin behind timelines to the point where that it will have to scramble to stand-up an exchange.

Walker, at the time he rejected the federal funding, explained – in what has become something of a chant among states opposed to HIX, including Oklahoma, Louisiana, Kansas, Florida and South Carolina – that “stopping the encroachment of ObamaCare in our state, which has the potential to have a devastating impact on Wisconsin’s economy, is a top priority.”

[See also: Health insurers buy majority stake in Bloom Health, will launch national private insurance exchange]

And even though the four remaining presidential candidates won’t likely address Wisconsin’s HIX conundrum, the campaigning around healthcare has gotten a little more pointed this week, particularly as Rick Santorum released a new ad attacking Mitt Romney on a number of fronts, healthcare among them, likening the former Massachusetts governor to President Obama.

Romney, meanwhile, collected the backing of Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) as well as Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, who late last month unveiled a new budget proposal including Medicare reforms.

Even though Santorum insists he will not drop out of the race after Wisconsin, the state is shaping up to be an important battleground in terms of delegate collecting, and even with an eye on May primaries in Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas and West Virginia – states with more evangelical voters – April and May are looking to be difficult months for the former Pennsylvania Senator.

Meanwhile, President Obama on Monday said that, should the Supreme Court overturn the ACA, the ruling would constitute an act of just the sort of judicial activism Republicans claim to hate.

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