MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker said Tuesday that he now believes there’s a chance President Barack Obama could delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act in response to political pressure.
Walker, who like many of his fellow Republicans, has repeatedly called for the law to be repealed, said he has come to believe over the past six months that Obama could change his mind and push back the requirement that everyone have insurance starting in January or face a penalty.
Obama has shown no signs of being willing to delay further implementation of his signature domestic policy achievement. The Republican-controlled House has voted more than three dozen times to repeal, delay or eliminate funding for the law. Republicans contend that it would hurt the economy by imposing too many requirements on businesses and individuals, and drive health care costs higher as a result. None of the bills have advanced in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
A spokesman for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. White House spokesman Jay Carney said at a news conference last week that the president was unwilling to accept any implementation delays to avoid a government shutdown.
“The Congress passed the Affordable Care Act. The president signed it. The Supreme Court upheld it as constitutional,” Carney said. “And it is providing benefits to millions of Americans today and will provide access to affordable health care to millions of Americans when the marketplaces take effect.”
Walker, who faces re-election next year and is considering running for president in 2016, responded to questions about the law following a speech at the Wisconsin Counties Association meeting.
Walker said Obama’s decision to delay the employer health insurance mandate coupled with Democratic Sen. Max Baucus calling the law a potential “train wreck” in April could lead to Obama slowing further implementation.
“That opened the eyes to the administration that maybe they had a bigger political problem than they anticipated,” Walker said of Baucus’s comments.
Walker said a number of senators, both Democrats and Republicans, who face tough re-election campaigns next year could make a compelling case to Obama to delay or reschedule the effective date of the law.
“For the good of the country, not necessarily politics, but for the good of the country as we see a slow but steady recovery nationally we don’t want to do anything that would put a wet blanket on it,” Walker said, referring to the implementation of the law.
The health care law is currently embroiled in a standoff between the White House and Congress over federal spending for the budget year that begins Oct. 1, the same day as enrollment opens for new online insurance marketplaces where people can shop for coverage. A House-passed bill would continue funding the government while eliminating money to implement the health care law. The Senate is expected to pass and return to the House just the portion of the bill that would fund the government another year.
Walker reiterated his opposition to the federal government shutting down, saying he hoped Congress could reach a deal to avoid that.
Walker discounted arguments that Obama’s re-election victory over Republican Mitt Romney, who championed a similar health care overhaul law while governor of Massachusetts, amounted to a referendum on the law, or “Obamacare,” as Republicans commonly refer to it.
“I don’t think there could have been a candidate in a worse position to make it an issue than the candidate who oversaw a very similar program at the state level,” Walker said. “A lot of people are opening their eyes politically and saying maybe there wasn’t a referendum on it in the last election.”
In Wisconsin, Walker and the Republican Legislature lowered income eligibility for Medicaid from 200 percent of poverty to 100 percent. That is expected to result in about 92,000 people losing Medicaid coverage at the end of the year. They, along with an estimated 400,000 people who have no insurance, will be shopping for coverage starting next week through the new online marketplace, or exchange.
If the federal law is delayed, changes in Wisconsin’s Medicaid eligibility changes would also be pushed back.