The Corner

Scott Walker on the Tricky Task of Replacing Obamacare’s Medicaid Expansion

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker spoke to NR today about his role in a small working group of governors attempting to help House and Senate Republicans forge the legislative replacement for Obamacare, including what to do about the people who are covered by the law’s expansion of Medicaid in 31 states.

“It’s a logical spot for me, particularly as chairman of the [Republican Governors Association],” Walker said. “It’s important to have governors [involved], particularly on the Medicaid side, since we’re the ones who are going to have to make that happen. We’ve met with both House and Senate chairs, talked to the Speaker, talked to others about this.”

From his comments, it doesn’t sound like many details have been hammered out yet, but the aim is to avoid taking away coverage from the new Medicaid coverage recipients, and instead swapping it for a market-based plan.

“We have a small working group of governors, evenly mixed between states that took the Medicaid expansion and states like mine that did not, and trying to hammer through some of those issues,” Walker said. “The House and Senate leaders would like to have a plan they can pass that will have the support of governors. If you don’t, not only is it politically harder to do, those who are legitimately trying to solve this issue understand that you can’t hand Medicaid off to the states in a way that sets us up for failure.”

Walker said he’s not worried Republicans are overpromising on how satisfied Americans will be with the legislative replacement for Obamacare.

“I think you can replace and reform in a way that gives people the same or better,” he said. “I’m not talking about having the same subsidy from the government. Because of the bifurcated Supreme Court decision, we [in Wisconsin] were able to determine our destiny on Medicaid. We didn’t take the expansion, and we’re not a state exchange state, but for the first time ever, we covered everyone in poverty with Medicaid. All those above [the poverty level], we transitioned them to the marketplace. Somebody conceivably earning just above poverty [level], working to tap into a reasonably-costing plan by virtue of the subsidies, now under the market-driven approach, we [can] do the same with a tax credit or something very similar to the tax credit.”

“When governors are given the ability to really reform Medicaid and our other assistance programs, when I say it’s the same or better, I mean we help somebody get into the workforce. Now they’ve got an employer-based plan, or they’re making enough to be able to afford the co-pays or the premiums on that. They’re better off than they were before. The government just giving them something, even in the form of a subsidy, isn’t necessarily good for them. We can find a better alterative. It doesn’t mean we’re giving you more money, but rather we’re giving you more ability to earn and live a better life.”

Walker also talked about his experience with angry protesters on the Left and offered advice to Congressional Republicans facing hostile crowds in their town halls.

“People have a right to be heard, and don’t respond in kind, but don’t let the noise of the protesters to drown out the voices of the people who elected you in the first place,” Walker said.  “When we had 100,000 or almost 150,000 protesters around our capital, a reporter asked me, ‘don’t these people have a right to heard?’ I said, ‘sure, that’s what great about America. You can protest your government. But I’m not going to let them down out the voices of the people who elected me in this state who are at home, taking care of their families, and working. They elected me to do the things I’m doing.’”

It’s a strange new status for Walker, to suddenly talked about his new status as one of the less controversial Republican figures in the new Trump era of the GOP.

“I had somebody at one of the colleges, say ‘compared to Trump, you’re actually pretty reasonable. I said, ‘thanks, I think,’” Walker said with a laugh. “Obviously, in her mind, she didn’t like me much before, but now I’m this mainstream guy.”

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