Politics

Scott Walker Open to Removing Pre-Existing Condition Mandate

May 5th 2017

By:
Kyle Jaeger

On Friday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) expressed openness to the idea of eliminating an Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) mandate that required insurers to cover patients with pre-existing conditions.

scott walker

"That's something we certainly would consider," Walker said at a press conference. "It depends on the conditions, and again, what's in the House bill could be very different than what's in the Senate bill and what finally comes to the president. So I'm going to wait till I see what's in the final version."

If the GOP health care plan to repeal and replace Obamacare goes through, states would be allowed to decide whether people with pre-existing conditions were guaranteed equitable coverage or be placed in high-risk pools, which are state-funded insurance programs for people who are turned down by insurance companies.

The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that high-risk pools that existed in the decades before the ACA took effect in 2014 "covered just a fraction of the number of people with pre-existing conditions who lacked insurance, due in part to design features that limited enrollment."

What's more, these programs "typically excluded coverage of services associated with pre-existing conditions for a period of time and charged premiums substantially in excess of what a typical person would pay in the non-group market," the report stated.

doctor-holding-stethoscope

That was true of Wisconsin's high-risk pool, according to The Wisconsin State Journal. An average of only 21,000 people with pre-existing conditions were enrolled in Wisconsin's high-risk pool program annually. But experts say that, because the program proved expensive, more than 500,000 people with pre-existing conditions weren't able to afford to participate and were left uninsured, Donna Friedsam, a health policy programs director at University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Population Health Institute, told The Wisconsin State Journal.

Hours after suggesting that the state would consider returning to a high-risk pool program for individuals with pre-existing conditions, though, Walker seemed to walk back his comments. A spokesperson for the governor told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that pre-existing conditions would be covered regardless of any shifts in federal health care policy.

Walker subsequently tweeted that it was "a given" that Wisconsin will "ensure coverage for people with pre-existing conditions."

Though conservative House members pushed for state exemptions to the ACA pre-existing condition mandate, which was ultimately included in the second version of the GOP's American Health Care Act (AHCA)—which passed the House on Wednesday and now heads to the Senate—the fact remains that a majority of Americans (87 percent, according to a recent CNN/ORC poll) support guaranteed coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.