Heated exchange between Gov. Walker, Outagamie Co. Exec. over health care

MILWAUKEE -- The emotional reaction to the House's passage of a bill to largely roll back the Affordable Care Act, known to many as Obamacare, led to a public argument between Governor Scott Walker (R - Wisconsin) and the Outagamie County Executive.

Under the House bill, states could opt to allow insurers to charge more to people with pre-existing conditions, then create a high-risk pool for those individuals, using federal money to help them pay for insurance.

Walker said on Friday, May 5th that it is something he would consider. Later in the day, the governor got into heated discussion with Thomas Nelson, the Outagamie County Executive. Nelson, who previously served in the state legislature, wanted to know if Walker would opt Wisconsin out of the guaranteed protection..

"If you want to play politics, you should run for office. If you want to run for governor, run for governor," Gov. Walker said to Outagamie County Executive Thomas Nelson.

The comment came during a tourism event in Appleton. Nelson went to the podium and asked the governor if he would allow insurers to charge Wisconsinites more for having pre-existing conditions while accepting federal money for the creation of high-risk pools -- a key tenet of the House bill that passed Thursday.

"The plan is I'm going to wait for the Senate and the President do and we`ll see from there. So just to be clear, the county executive wants to take away from tourism and play a political stunt about a topic that has nothing to do with what we're talking about today," Walker said, "It's on an issue that was voted on in front of the House of Representatives, but is not even going forward in the Senate right now. We'll look at it when it goes to the United States Senate."

The governor said earlier Friday he would consider that state options should it become law.

At a protest outside Sen. Ron Johnson's downtown office, those opposing the Republican bill say the federal high-risk pool money would not be enough.

"It is a fig leaf to justify a return to discrimination. The only people who want to be able to discriminate against people with health conditions are the insurance industry," said Robert Kraig with Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

The protesters worry the bill would make health care less affordable for those who need it most.

"Technically, you could get insurance but if you have to pay $2,000, $3,000 a month because of a condition you have, it’s not actually available," said Phil Sanna, who said drove in from New Glarus.

Other protestors said it's unfair that so many people are now facing uncertainty over future coverage of their ailments.

"All these people are hard-working, decent, honest people and these kind of things happen to everyone and it doesn't affect you until it does," said Darcy Gustavsson, a protester from Brookfield.

The House bill got the momentum push it needed from the Upton Amendment, which added an additional $8 billion to the high-risk pool. The total size of that fund, which would be distributed among states that opt out of the federal protection, is about $122 billion under the House bill.

That $122 billion would be expected to last from 2018 through 2026, about $13.5 billion a year over a nine-year period. Critics have pointed to a previous study done by University of Chicago health policy that estimated an adequate high-risk pool would cost about $24 billion a year.

During the heated discussion in Appleton, Gov. Walker said he will further address the issue as it goes through the Senate and "before it gets to President Trump."