MADISON - With the Wisconsin Assembly approving a bill to require coverage of pre-existing conditions earlier this week, local lawmakers say they are unsure whether the legislation will make it to the Senate floor for a vote.
Assembly Bill 1 passed 76-19, and even as some Democrats supported the bill, it was widely panned by those on the left as a publicity stunt, failing to protect Wisconsinites should the Affordable Care Act be struck down in federal court.
The effort might not even make it to the desk Gov. Tony Evers, with GOP Senate leadership yet to call for a vote on the bill. A similar effort failed to pass last session. When the Associated Press asked Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald if the Senate would vote on the bill, he replied "We could, yeah. Maybe. I mean maybe. I don't know."
Communications Director Alec Zimmerman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Wednesday that Senate Republicans would plan to caucus next week, and will "discuss a path forward" on the actions taken by the Assembly on Tuesday.
Changes added late Tuesday included banning coverage limits to those with serious health conditions, but does not include a list requiring coverage for benefits like maternity care and prescriptions, a request made by Evers last week.
"This legislation will make us a leader in the Midwest on pre-existing condition coverage and one of only five other states in the country to ensure that all three elements of the pre-existing condition protections will remain in place for state residents regardless of changes at the national level," said Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton.
Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, said he felt the bill didn't go far enough, but said he supported the measure to create a starting point for future legislative talks.
"The coverage of pre-existing conditions in the Affordable Care Act only works because of other coverages like essential health benefits, protections of copays, deductibles and subsidies in the system," Spreitzer said. "If you guarantee that without those protections, costs might go up for everyone. If The ACA would go away, that alone would not work. We would have to come back and do more."
Both Spreitzer and Sen. Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville, said they felt Tuesday's bill was disingenuous since the state is still a party in the federal lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act. Evers signaled in his State of the State address he would instruct Attorney General Josh Kaul to withdraw the state from the lawsuit, but whether or not he has that authority remains unclear following lame duck legislation passed to limit Evers' power.
Loudenbeck said critics of the bill should focus on positives contained within it, from the guaranteed issue requirement to the community rating provision and removal of lifetime caps.
"Because the question is, 'Do you support those things or not, and a 'no' vote or a veto means you don't, and that's a pretty hard position to defend," she said.
Ringhand said she was "not really happy" with Assembly Bill 1 in its current form, and Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, said he had yet to review the bill following Tuesday's changes, saying he was "undecided" on the latest version of the bill.
The Senate will next be in session on Feb. 12.