WI lawmakers discuss anticipated Supreme Court health care ruling

MILWAUKEE — The nation is awaiting a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court regarding President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. The highly-anticipated decision will likely come next week, and in the meantime, Wisconsin lawmakers are discussing the ruling’s potential impact on the state.

The Supreme Court’s ruling is expected to either affirm the law’s constitutionality, or send states back to the drawing board on health care reform.

“I think a Wisconsin solution is much better than a federal solution,” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said.

The Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 without a single Republican vote. Almost immediately, the law’s constitutionality was challenged by 26 states, including Wisconsin.

Gov. Walker argues the national health care law infringes upon individual liberties and states’ rights.

“It’s why Wisconsin joined the lawsuit: it’s clear the constitution does not define the federal government has the right to tell states, and more importantly families, what they can do with health care,” Gov. Walker said.

Supporters of the law, like state Representative Jon Richards (D – Milwaukee) say they worry if the Supreme Court were to strike down the law, it would jeopardize access to health care for millions of previously uninsured Americans — particularly those with pre-existing conditions, who currently cannot be denied coverage under the law.

“You really have to wonder what’s going to happen to someone who has diabetes and can’t get health insurance, or who had a run in with cancer and can’t get health insurance,” Richards said.

It’s uncertain whether the law is an all-or-nothing proposition. In other words, if the insurance mandate were to fall, would the rest of the law have to go down with it? Gov. Walker says yes, contending the federal government cannot compel people to purchase health insurance.

“I think there’s a credible argument that the overall mandate itself goes against the 10th Amendment to the Constitution,” Gov. Walker said.

However, Richards, who is the ranking member of the Assembly Health Committee, says the mandates are crucial to solving the problems of health care access and rising costs.

“You really need to have something like the individual mandate to make sure everybody’s in the pool,” Richards said.

Richards defends the law as constitutional.

“It falls clearly within the commerce clause powers of Congress to regulate commerce between the states.  Healthcare is roughly 20 percent of the U.S. economy,” Richards said.

There is no denying the potential political ramifications of the Supreme Court’s ruling. Gov. Walker says although it seems odd, if the law were to be struck down, it could actually help President Obama in his re-election campaign, because it would take away one of the Republicans’ most politically potent issues.

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