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Tony Evers nears his first showdown with GOP lawmakers on pre-existing condition protections

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Health care

State lawmakers and Gov. Tony Evers are debating state protections for people with pre-existing health conditions. 

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is edging closer to his first legislative showdown with Republican legislative leaders over a bill to protect health insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

The bill would create state protections for some with pre-existing conditions if the federal Affordable Care Act that established them is repealed or struck down in court. The bill would apply to most Wisconsinites, but not those with private self-funded insurance plans that could not be regulated by state law if the federal law, known as Obamacare, were no longer in effect.

The Assembly Health Committee advanced the bill Thursday in a split vote, and Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the full Assembly will vote on it Tuesday.

But Evers signaled he cannot support the measure as is. Following a meeting Thursday with Vos and Fitzgerald, Evers called for the inclusion of more protections for people with serious health conditions, including barring annual and lifetime coverage caps and requiring that plans cover certain basic health benefits.

In a Twitter thread detailing his views, Evers noted his past battle with cancer.

“I also know firsthand how expensive life-saving care can be,” Evers said. “If you get sick, you shouldn’t have to worry that your medical bills might cost more than what your insurance covers.”

In a subsequent post he added: “I will not sign legislation that fails to fully protect Wisconsinites like me who have pre-existing conditions. I am hopeful that (Vos and Fitzgerald) will support these changes.”

Vos, speaking briefly to reporters late Thursday, declined to say if he will support Evers’ requested changes, saying, “I’m not going to negotiate by Twitter.” Vos signaled he expects negotiations on the bill to continue.

Speaking earlier in the day, Vos told reporters that he hopes “public pressure” on Evers will cause him to come to the table and find a pre-existing conditions bill that can be signed into law.

“We’re more than happy to sit down, talk about it, find that bipartisan consensus,” Vos said.

Vos said bringing the measure up on the first day the Assembly meets next week fulfills a promise that Assembly Republicans made during last year’s campaign.

In the Assembly Health Committee on Thursday, all Republicans and two Democrats, Reps. Lisa Subeck, of Madison, and Robyn Vining, of Wauwatosa, voted to advance the bill.

Subeck said in a statement the bill “does not go nearly far enough” and she supports Evers’ effort to negotiate a stronger bill.

“It is my hope that this is merely a first step,” she said.

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