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Pressure on Walker increases over health exchange

Associated Press Published: November 13, 2012

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Democrats in Wisconsin's congressional delegation on Tuesday urged Gov. Scott Walker to implement a state-run health insurance exchange rather than cede control to the federal government.

Walker faced a Friday deadline to notify President Barack Obama's administration whether Wisconsin will run its own virtual marketplace where people without health insurance could shop for private coverage, have the federal government do it, or create a hybrid. The exchange would begin operating in 2014.

Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said the governor would announce his decision Thursday or Friday. Walker has been meeting privately with the state Insurance Commissioner Ted Nickel, Department of Health Service Secretary Dennis Smith and other top advisers to chart a path.

Walker was out of the office Tuesday, on his way to the annual Republican Governors Association meeting in Las Vegas where implementing the exchanges was sure to be a hot topic.

Democrats who favor the state-run exchange find themselves in the position of urging Walker, along with Republicans who control the state Legislature, to take control of the process instead of the Obama administration.

Walker should involve a bipartisan group of decision makers in designing the best possible system for Wisconsin, said state Rep. Jon Richards, who joined 17 other state Democratic lawmakers last week in calling for a state-run exchange.

Ceding control of creating the exchange to the federal government would result in important decisions being made in Washington instead of Wisconsin, Democrats in the state's congressional delegation told Walker in a letter sent Tuesday.

"Should state leaders ever want to establish an exchange, relinquishing control to the federal government now would make it much more difficult to pursue state adoption in the future," the Democrats said.

The letter was signed by U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl and U.S. Reps. Tammy Baldwin, Ron Kind and Gwen Moore. Mark Pocan, who was elected to Congress in November, also signed.

At least 17 states and the District of Columbia are on track to set up their own exchanges, while 10 have decided against it.

A variety of other health care and business groups have called on him to pursue a state-run exchange, including the powerful Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, which has supported Walker, the Wisconsin Hospital Association, the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses and both of the state's health insurance associations. The NFIB was a lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case that failed to overturn Obama's health-care reform law.

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