With Obamacare repeal certain, Wisconsin experts say maintaining - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

With Obamacare repeal certain, Wisconsin experts say maintaining coverage levels the top priority

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MADISON (WKOW) -- While the repeal of the Affordable Care Act appears all but certain on Capitol Hill, no one in Wisconsin's health care or insurance industry seems to have a clear idea of what will replace it.
    
But all who participated in a forum on Obamacare repeal put on by Wisconsin Health News Thursday, agreed on the biggest thing state lawmakers in Washington and Madison need to consider.

"You have almost two-thirds of the individual insurance market in Wisconsin on that Obamacare exchange, and then 84 percent of those people are receiving a subsidy - and in some cases a substantial subsidy - to help afford their premiums," said Eric Borgerding, CEO of the Wisconsin Hospital Association.

The question for Borgerding and others is how public officials can make sure those people still have insurance one year from now.

"You know, it's hard to say, but that is - I think - going to be the gauge of success," said Borgerding.

Wisconsin's uninsured rate has dropped by 38 percent since the Affordable Care Act went into effect.
    
Building on that success seemed to be the consensus top concern among those sitting on Thursday's panel.

"We've made great strides going forward to make sure that people have access to coverage and nobody wants to see us go back to the days where people just didn't have that access," said Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-West Allis), who chairs the Assembly Committee on Health.

Getting there is largely dependent on what Congress and President-Elect Trump decide to do first, but Wisconsin is also in a unique position compared to other states.

"We moved thousands of people off Medicaid and we were able to do that because they had access to affordable coverage under that subsidized exchange," said Borgerding. "If that goes away, it starts to dismantle and unravel the great progress that everyone touts."

"And it's going to be very important going forward to consider how to make sure that people can continue to have access to purchasing non-group insurance," said Donna Friedsam, health policy programs director for the UW Population Health Institute.

Rep. Sanfelippo said he's confident that can be accomplished by providing tax credits top people and allowing them to increase contributions to health savings accounts.

"So that you're really putting it in the hands of the people who are relying most on those subsidies right now, so they still will have some advantages to make healthcare affordable," said Rep. Sanfelippo.

But even if that works, there's then the question of how you pay for things like those tax credits or any of the popular parts of the current law Republicans want to keep.

When Rep. Deb Kolste (D-Janesville) asked that question to the panel, there was a beat of dead silence.

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