Absent federal action (to get rid of the ACA program we are now taking advantage of), Wisconsin’s Health Care Stability Plan creates a reinsurance program to cover costs in Wisconsin’s individual market. The program will provide $200 million in reinsurance funding. Under the program, Wisconsin estimates it will pay $34 million for reinsurance in 2019; the federal government will pay the remaining $166 million in “pass through” funds representing federal savings from the program. The program will provide coverage for claims between $50,000 and $250,000. The Wisconsin Health Care Stability Plan is estimated to pay 50 percent of those costs up to $200 million.Two quick observations here.
Upon federal approval of the 1332 waiver, Wisconsin estimates premiums will be reduced by 10.6 percent from levels that otherwise would have occurred, resulting in a 5 percent decrease in 2019 premiums, compared to 2018.
1. Where's the proof of premiums going down? From what I can tell, Walker cites some study by an Administration-paid consultant, and it's accompanied by information that the Office of the Insurance Commissioner presented as part of this 1332 waiver. I have strong suspicions that the reason any premiums would drop is because people would choose plans with less coverage than they did before.
In addition, as Citizen Action has pointed out in the past, Walker's Insurance Commissioner won't use his power to force health insurance corporations to keep their premium hikes in check. Why would they start now? But again, I don't have the evidence that they used to make this claim (if there is any).
2. Oh, NOW Walker is cool with having the Feds cover more of the costs associated with ACA coverage? When the Feds would have paid 100% of expanded Medicaid for the past 5 years, Walker said it was too risky because one day expanded Medicaid might go away. But now that Walker faces the voters in November and that Obama isn't in the White House any more, all of a sudden getting the Feds to pick up the tab doesn't seem like such a bad deal in WalkerWorld.
How would the Feds pick up more of the tab? Here's what the OCI claims.
Waivers can be funded by “pass through dollars”Basically, it would bail out companies that are on the ACA exchanges and have to pay high-cost claims. Because the ACA limits the amount of profit an insurance company can keep, the insurance companies then jack up the prices of premiums for everybody that gets insurance on the exchanges as their own version of insurance.
If the federal government will save money it would have otherwise spent in subsidies absent the waiver, the state can use those “pass through dollars” to help fund
The plan creates a “reinsurance” program to cover costs in the individual market
Reinsurance is insurance for insurance companies
The program would provide coverage for claims between $50,000 and $250,000
Under the program, the state would pay between 50% and 80% (likely between 50-60%) of those costs up to $200 million.
Now that the state would be backing this up, the theory (as I can figure it) is that premiums would be lower, and therefore the feds wouldn't need to pay as much in tax credits to low-income people that buy insurance on the exchanges so they'd give back a lot of these funds to Wisconsin as a "thank you".
Wouldn't Medicare/Badgercare for all make more sense at this point?
Seems like a lot of "ifs and hopes" to me, but because the money won't be spent until Fiscal Year 2019, it'll be unknown what the effect is until after the 2018 elections. Which is quite...convenient.
On a related note, where is Walker getting the information that asserts the Feds will continue to pick up more of the tab of this reinsurance plan? Given that Paul Ryan keeps making noise about "cutting entitlements" like Medicaid and and that Trump and the GOP Congress have sabotaged cost-sharing subsidies in the past, why would Walker assume there'd be more money coming from DC to bail state taxpayers out in this scheme? Especially as the US's budget deficit skyrockets under these stupid tax cuts?
The same reversal has happened on the subject of rural broadband, where Walker is trying to brag about putting in more money to expand this infrastructure, after keeping Wisconsin behind for years due to bad choices in the past.
Governor Scott Walker today announced the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) has awarded the largest round of Broadband Expansion Grants in state history with $7.68 million in total preliminary awards leveraged to $19,468,725 in private matching funds. 46 new grants have been awarded to extend high-speed internet access to as many as 1,600 business locations and 18,000 residential locations . The awards announced today are preliminary and will be finalized upon the issuance of the Commission’s written decision and the expiration of a 10-day appeal process. In addition, Governor Walker announced the opening of application process for next round of grants.Ooooh, $7.68 million in reused USF fees to expand broadband in Wisconsin? Sounds great, until you realize that Walker turned down $23 million from the Obama Administration that would have done the same thing 7 years ago. And this time, it's Wisconsin ratepayers that are funding these expansions, instead of the Federal government.
“Broadband has endless potential to help Wisconsin communities,” said Governor Walker. “Years ago, electricity revolutionized farming for my grandparents. Today broadband is revolutionizing education, health care, and business, and improving the quality of life for Wisconsin’s rural residents. With this historic round of Broadband Expansion Grants, we are another step closer to connecting every Wisconsin community.”
In this budget, Governor Walker increased total broadband investments by $35 million and created a permanent Broadband Expansion Grant program. Prior to today’s awards, the PSC has awarded 55 Broadband Expansion Grants totaling $5,452,000 since Governor Walker took office.
Yes, it's nice to see broadband finally get expanded into areas of the state that needs it. But I give this Governor no credit for doing something he should have been doing from day 1, especially given that it was clearly done to spite the efforts of the Black Man that was in the White House. They tried to strike a pose against Obama to stir up the rubes and get attention from national interests, but those stunts hurt this state long-term, and they cannot be left off the hook for doing a scaled-down version of WHAT THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN DOING ALL ALONG.
Let's not forget that these pre-election moves are an admission by the Walker Administration that their previous strategy failed. And there's no reason to think these cynical sleazes will continue to go down the path of responsibility if the people of Wisconsin are foolish enough to keep them in power after 2018.
Instead, why not remove that uncertainty over what will follow (remember when Walker would claim "uncertainty" was an economic problem?), and get someone in who recognizes that federal spending should be used to help Wisconsinites, and not only be grabbed onto as a desperate pre-election ploy.