Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, cast doubts on the viability of two campaign promises from Gov. Scott Walker — and one from Democratic challenger Tony Evers — on Tuesday.
Speaking with reporters after a WisPolitics.com Q&A luncheon, Fitzgerald raised doubts about whether there would be enough votes in the Senate's Republican majority to pass legislation requiring insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. But several hours later, after media reports on his comments, he released a statement saying the Senate would, in fact, pass such a bill if needed.
"Pre-existing conditions are covered right now, and I support that policy. If it becomes necessary to cover them in the future, the senate would pass a bill to do so," Fitzgerald said in a statement released early Tuesday evening.
Walker has promised throughout his re-election campaign that he will preserve insurance coverage for Wisconsinites with pre-existing conditions, even if the federal requirement to do so under the Affordable Care Act is struck down. With Walker's approval, Wisconsin is part of a multi-state lawsuit seeking to overturn the Obama-era health care law.
A campaign spokesman promised last month that if anything were to change regarding requirements for coverage, the governor "would call a special session in a heartbeat and get (a bill) passed" to bar insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. The bill passed the Assembly last year but was never taken up by the Senate. Democrats opposed it because it would allow insurers to charge more if a patient had a gap in coverage.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, told reporters earlier this month that he would like the Senate to take up the bill during a planned extraordinary session set to start Nov. 12.
"We voted on that in the Assembly. It would be great if they would pass that in the Senate," Vos said.
Fitzgerald told reporters on Tuesday he wasn't sure the legislation could pass the Senate.
"I wouldn't rule it out, because obviously it's generated a lot of heat during this campaign and the election cycle," Fitzgerald said. "But I know I've got members that probably are not on board, which is one of the reasons that it wasn't something that we tackled at the end of session."
Fitzgerald said the lawmakers who aren't on board are opposed to implementing mandates on insurance companies.
Fitzgerald said he hasn't discussed specific policy proposals for the extraordinary session with Vos, aside from plans to take up an incentive package designed to keep Kimberly-Clark from closing a plant in the Fox Valley.
Fitzgerald also raised doubts about a proposal both Walker and Evers have made, that two-thirds of K-12 education funding would come from the state budget.
"I don't know if we can get there," Fitzgerald said, adding that he would look into it. "I just get nervous when we talk about those things not knowing where we are financially, fiscally."