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Obama's win forces Walker's hand on health care

Associated Press Modified: November 7, 2012 at 6:01 pm •  Published: November 7, 2012

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — President Barack Obama's re-election is forcing the hand of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who had stopped all efforts to implement the federal health care reform law in the hopes that Republicans would take over in Washington.

Obama's victory coupled with Democrats' keeping control of the Senate assures that the Affordable Health Care Act will continue to go into effect. Walker's administration and Republican leaders in the state Legislature are now scrambling to figure out their next move.

Wisconsin faces a Nov. 16 deadline to inform the Obama administration whether the state will implement an online health care marketplace, or exchange, or let the federal government do it. Each state's exchange must be operational in 2014 under the health care law.

Walker told reporters Wednesday in Milwaukee that he will be meeting with state officials this week to discuss the next steps. He downplayed the urgency of the situation, saying no matter what the state does the federal government won't review it for months. Walker has said he doesn't think it would be a problem for the state to get an extension.

"Even after notifying them, we have until next fall to make modifications as we see fit," Walker said. "We haven't made a decision yet."

Walker said the choice for his administration was whether to accept an exchange run by the federal government, set up its own or pursue a combination.

"The question, from our standpoint, is what option is best for the taxpayers of Wisconsin," Walker said.

Walker halted implementation in late 2011, pending the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. When it found its main tenets constitutional in June, Walker then said he was holding off on implementing the changes until after the election in the hopes that Republicans would win and overturn it.

Walker also rejected $38 million in federal money that could have gone toward paying for implementing the law.

Advocates of the law say Tuesday's election results in Wisconsin show there is support for it. Wisconsin voters elected a proponent of the law, Democrat Tammy Baldwin, to the U.S. Senate over Republican Tommy Thompson, who vowed to be the 51st vote to repeal it. Obama also carried Wisconsin by nearly 7 percentage points.

Supporters of the law, who had urged Walker to continue with implementation both before and after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law, renewed that call Wednesday.

"Now that the election is over and the Affordable Care Act will be implemented, it is time for the Walker Administration to stop playing political games with the health of Wisconsin's citizens," said Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. "The design of this new competitive health marketplace is critically important."

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