MADISON -- Gov. Scott Walker refused to endorse the House bill overhauling the federal health care law for a second day Wednesday, March 8th -- declaring "more work needs to be done" and expressing concern that there were no cost estimates for the proposal championed by fellow Wisconsin Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Walker repeated for a second day that he viewed the bill as a "work in progress" and said that after speaking with Ryan he is anticipating "a series of changes" before it passes the House. Ryan has publicly said the bill is the only proposal in Congress that advances the Republican's long-held promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
"I just still think there's some more work to be done," Walker told reporters. "Our ultimate goal as governors, certainly my goal, is to have ultimate flexibility."
Walker said it was "unconventional" for the House to be moving forward without knowing the costs.
"I, personally, want to know what the cost is," Walker said. "At some point before the members of the House or the Senate are asked to vote, at a minimum they should not only have the (costs) back but they should have some time to digest it."
Walker has been measured in his response to the Ryan bill as he weighs both his concerns for Wisconsin and those of other governors. Walker, as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, has worked with Ohio Gov. John Kasich and others on an alternative proposal that would effectively put states in charge of their Medicaid programs but require the federal government to continue financing them.
"The challenges they're going to have in the House and Senate are not unlike those we're going to have amongst governors," Walker said. "Trying to balance that out is no easy task amongst governors. I can only imagine it's not an easy task in the House and the Senate just on the issue of what you do with expansion states, not to mention the other issues out there."
Some Republican governors have complained that Ryan's proposal will force millions of lower-income earners off insurance rolls or require states to pay for the cost of keeping them covered. There are also concerns among Republican governors in states that accepted federal money to expand Medicaid and those that did not.
Walker rejected the $500 million to expand Medicaid. Instead, he reduced those on the program by limiting it only to people at or below poverty, but it expanded it to include childless adults who previously had been on a waiting list for coverage. He said he hoped the federal bill would ultimately be modeled after what he did in Wisconsin.
Walker said he was on a telephone call Tuesday night with Republican governors, who lead 33 states, to discuss the proposal. He said governors want "maximum flexibility" and are united in liking that Congress is at least moving to repeal the current law.
Walker was among Republicans who have spent years bashing former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010 by a Democratic Congress. But Walker on Wednesday downplayed concerns over its replacement, saying most people won't be affected because they purchase health insurance through their employers.
"Most people aren't going to be affected by this no matter what happens," he said. "It's a whole lot of attention people are paying to it, understandably, but it's not going to affect most people."