U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said in a telephone town hall meeting Monday he’s still not sure whether he’ll support the Senate GOP health care bill.
Meanwhile, Dems in the state’s Congressional delegation blasted the bill following the release of the Congressional Budget Office’s scoring of the legislation.
CBO estimated 15 million more people would be uninsured next year under the bill compared to current law, largely because the ACA’s individual mandate would go away. By 2026, that would grow to 22 million people.
CBO also found the bill would cut spending by $321 billion by 2026, partly due to the bill spending $772 billion less on Medicaid than current law would. The bill would cap the amount of money states get from the feds to manage their Medicaid programs and phase out the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.
Johnson, R-Oshkosh, who in an op-ed Monday criticized the bill for continuing to require insurance companies cover those with pre-existing conditions, touted high-risk pools as an alternative during the call with constituents.
He said though Wisconsin’s high-risk pool wasn’t perfect and “did exclude people,” it worked well and other states like Maine also had effective structures to cover those with intensive care needs.
Critics say Wisconsin’s high-risk pool left many people out because it provided few options and was unaffordable, though Gov. Scott Walker and House Speaker Paul Ryan have said it was a national model.
While Johnson has expressed skepticism about the bill, he pushed back against some of the criticisms following the CBO score’s release.
Johnson noted CBO’s projections about those who would go uninsured is largely due to those who would opt against health insurance since the ACA individual mandate would go away. He said he wants to address the “root cause of that problem” — that Healthcare.gov premiums have increased substantially.
“I don’t have a problem, truthfully, if people … choose not to buy insurance. That’s their choice. That’s not the fault of the bill,” he said. “What I would say is the fault of Obamacare is that so many people can’t afford it, and that’s why they’re choosing not to buy it.”
Johnson also disagreed with the analysis the Senate GOP health care bill would cut Medicaid funding, joining other Republicans in saying it boosts Medicaid funding each year but ensures the increases are lower.
He also said the Medicaid spending formula for children and the elderly is more generous in the Senate GOP bill than the formula for the general population. Johnson said he’s “going to do everything I can” to make sure funding is adequate for those groups.
He said there “really is no rush” in putting forward a plan to replace Obamacare, saying he’d like to first try to pass a short-term solution to stabilize the marketplaces.
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin said the score “confirms the partisan Senate plan will make families pay more for less care” and increase the amount of people who are uninsured.
Baldwin, D-Madison, criticized the Medicaid cuts under the bill and said it weakens protections for those with pre-existing conditions.
“The people of Wisconsin did not send me to Washington to take people’s health care away,” the Madison Dem said. “We should be working together to make things better, not worse, and the CBO makes clear that the Senate repeal plan will leave millions of families behind.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, wrote on Twitter the CBO’s analysis showed the Senate bill is “just as bad for Wisconsinites” as a separate bill House Republicans approved this year.
And U.S. Rep Mark Pocan, D-Town of Vermont, wrote in a Facebook post the “so-called health care bill is as bad as advertised.”