Will Wisconsin have its own health care exchange?

MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker has until Friday, November 16th to decide how he’ll respond to a mandate in the national health care reform law. It orders the state to create a health care exchange. What he decides will impact how thousands of Wisconsinites will get their health insurance.

Gov. Walker has been an unflinching critic of President Barack Obama’s health care reform law. Even after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law’s constitutionality, Gov. Walker refused to comply with it.

“The first step was the legal challenge. The second step for us is the political remedy,” Gov. Walker said.

Gov. Walker said he would wait until after the election to make a decision about one of the law’s key provisions: health care exchanges. They’re essentially online marketplaces where individuals and small business owners can shop for private health insurance. All Americans must have coverage by 2014 or pay a penalty.

President Obama’s re-election ratified the health care law and now, Gov. Walker has a decision and a deadline — Friday, November 16th. He can either set up a state-run exchange, allow the federal government to set one up, or create a hybrid of the two.

“If he was really looking out for the best interests of the state of Wisconsin, he wouldn’t be playing chicken with something so important,” Rep. Sandy Pasch (D – Shorewood) said.

All of Wisconsin’s Democratic members of Congress signed a letter to the governor saying, “Should state leaders ever want to establish an exchange, relinquishing control to the federal government now would make it much more difficulty to pursue state adoption in the future.”

“We want it to be user-friendly and reflect some of the programs we have in Wisconsin: BadgerCare, FamilyCare, SeniorCare. I don’t know that the federal plan is going to be reflective of that,” Rep. Pasch said.

The governor also faces pressure from the Tea Party telling him not to spend state money on the exchanges — and pressure from the insurance lobby to allow the state to create it.

The governor’s spokesman says a decision will likely be made in an announcement on Friday.

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