The possibility Wisconsin may be treated unfairly in the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, known more informally as Obamacare, was among the reasons why U.S. Senator Ron Johnson sought a delay in a U.S. Senate vote to repeal Obamacare.
“I never said I wasn’t going to vote for a bill,” Johnson said. “I just said I’m not going to vote this week.”
Johnson made his remarks during a stop at the offices of The Star and Hometown News LP in Sun Prairie on Friday, June 30. “I said I’m for sure a ‘no’ on the motion to proceed. It was just way too soon,” Johnson said. “We got a discussion draft and the American people saw a discussion draft for the first time. It didn’t get a CBO [Congressional Budget Office] score until Monday — way too short a time period to break it all down and fully understand it. That was the only thing I was a ‘no’ on.”
Johnson said he’s been trying to focus on bringing down the cost of insurance premiums.
“And I mean gross premiums,” Johnson said, “not after subsidies. If we could bring down the gross price of premiums that have been artificially increased because of all these market reforms under Obamacare — this architecture that has caused premiums nationally, on average, to more than double and in many cases triple — we ought to be able to bring those down.”
That would result in health insurance becoming more affordable, Johnson said.
“We’ve got to focus like a laser on bringing the price of gross premiums down,” the senator said.
And what about the CBO score that said 22 million Americans would lose health care under the Senate bill?
Johnson said the CBO analysis is flawed because it used old numbers on which to base the calculation.
“The CBO said the first year, 15 million would, primarily because we’ve eliminated the individual mandate, so people in freedom are saying they’re not going to buy unaffordable health care. But of that 15 million, 4 million are supposedly are those people who are getting Medicaid free of charge. And CBO says 4 million people getting free health care are going to drop it? Just because the individual mandate goes away? I don’t know — I suppose so.
Another 4 million are because of the loss of the employer mandate, they lose group coverage — that’s more plausible,” Johnson said.
“But then the remaining 7 million — we’re using a base line from March 2016 — a year and three months old,” Johnson said. “CBO has a revised baseline, in terms of number of insured on the individual non-group market, from January 2017 — it’s the exact same number of insureds as in the Senate bill. So if you compare against that baseline, there is no difference.
“So from 15 million, it goes down to a more plausible 4 million,” Johnson said. “So you have to really look carefully at those CBO numbers.
“Nobody wants to pull the rug out from anyone and I really don’t think we don’t think we are,” Johnson said. “If individuals in freedom say they can’t afford insurance and are not going to buy it, the solution is [to] bring down the premiums — which gets me back to my main effort here, which is to bring down the gross price of premiums.”
Johnson said he remains concerned about locking in the disparity between states such as Wisconsin, that is managing its Medicaid population including the closure of the Obamacare coverage gap, and those that don’t.
“According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, we’re got 96 percent of Wisconsinites covered for all or part of the year,” Johnson said. “That’s pretty good. Prior to Obamacare, it was about 94 percent, according to that department. So we didn’t need Obamacare kind of screwing up our individual market, disadvantaging those individuals who don’t get subsidies that can no longer afford coverage.”
Johnson said he is attempting to address the disparity penalizing Wisconsin for not accepting Medicaid expansion so that the disparity is not locked into the bill.
“I just got off a conference call with a group of governors, organized by Governor Walker,” Johnson said. “So we’re having those discussions.”
Johnson also addressed tax code reform, border security, national infrastructure, Veterans Administration reform and more; check out the videos with this story for more on Johnson's position on those issues.