Walker rejects $37m federal early innovator grant

Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin is sending $37 million back to the federal government. The money was an award for the state’s health care exchange under the early innovator program. The move follows an earlier announcement from the Governor that Wisconsin will not move forward on health care reform requirements until the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the law.

Walker said in his announcement that he didn’t think it made sense to take federal dollars and commit the state to a program that would have, “devastating economic impact.” Wisconsin was awarded an Early Innovator Grant by the federal government for its health exchange plan. Early Innovator Grants are designed to reward states with cutting edge plans for health care reform. According to Governor Walker, Wisconsin will continue to innovate without the help of federal funds.

After the election that elected Walker Governor, before he officially took office, he ordered then Governor Jim Doyle to halt the state’s efforts towards compliance with federal health care reform. In 2011, Walker created the Office of Free Market Health Care through an Executive Order to handle the state’s response to federal health care reform requirements. In the order, he not only tasked the office with examining requirements but to also, “explore all opportunities and alternative approaches that would free Wisconsin from establishing a health benefit exchange, including federal waivers.”

States that do not implement their own customized health care exchange will have a generic one administered for them at the federal level. Several states are challenging the law before the US Supreme Court which is expected to rule on the measure by the middle of this year.

The Court has scheduled several days of oral arguments and some states are filing briefs with the Court in support of the law in advance of those arguments.

Walker currently faces a recall action, as state democrats gained more than double the necessary signatures needed to force an election that could potentially unseat him.

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Corey McCarren

Just a little bit of confusion on my part. Was Wisconsin awarded this money after Walker decided to reform health care to be run by more by the free market, or after/because he created the Office of Free Market Health Care? It just doesn’t seem to make sense if it’s the latter!

Bailey McCann

Hi Corey, yeah he created the office of free market health care first in early 2011. The office was more or less a device to find a workaround for opting out of health care reform. In December, after the Supreme Court announced it would take up the constitutionality challenge from some states for HCR, he said that Wisconsin would not move forward until the ruling. Now he’s gone a step further to say that he has no intention of moving forward and will send back the money. It remains to be seen where he goes with it if the Court upholds HCR. But he has claimed that the state has been self-funding its health care initiatives thus far so it would be consistent for him to stick with that track. If he gets recalled, however, its an open question what the new Governor does. It seems like if the new governor wants money for this they’ll have to re-apply for funding.