Josh Kaul Dodges $89 Million Obamacare Question

Josh Kaul, the Democratic candidate for Wisconsin Attorney General, repeatedly told a Madison audience on Thursday he is opposed to current Attorney General Brad Schimel’s lawsuits to kill the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. However, when asked about a recent Obamacare victory by Schimel that netted Wisconsin $89 million, Kaul had nothing to say to reporters.

Kaul was asked by Media Trackers what would he do about the $89 million from Schimel’s court victory, including whether he would consider giving it back to the federal government.

“So the lawsuit I’ve been focused on is the challenge that is in federal court right now in which Brad Schimel wants to have the Affordable Care Act struck down entirely,” Kaul said. “If that suit is successful, Wisconsinites with pre-existing conditions will lose the protections that they have.”

The question about the $89 million judgement in Wisconsin’s favor was asked at a press gathering following a luncheon hosted by WisPolitics.

The lawsuit to which Kaul refers deals with whether the Obamacare law should be struck down by the courts because the law no longer has the Obamacare tax penalty for individuals without insurance. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Obamacare, including an “individual mandate” requiring Americans to purchase health insurance, was legal under the federal government’s taxing authority. However, Congress removed the Obamacare tax penalty when the Trump tax reform passed, possibly making the Obamacare law unconstitutional.

Schimel’s campaign criticized Kaul’s reluctance to address the $89 million Obamacare question.

“His lack of a response is not surprising. Josh Kaul has never prosecuted a criminal case in Wisconsin. Not one, ever,” said Johnny Koremenos, Schimel’s campaign manager, in an email Thursday. “He’s an activist. You get him off the talking points and he can’t provide any details, that’s reckless. Look at his website. It’s talking points and platitudes. His policy positions are as thin as his resumé.”

Democrats, including Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin, have attempted to make protecting Obamacare-mandated insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions an issue in the 2018 campaign. However, Wisconsin had a “high-risk” program for health insurance consumers with pre-existing conditions, and state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield) has repeatedly said in her campaign against Baldwin she’s in favor of legislation that would protect those with pre-existing conditions.

While Kaul would not say what Wisconsin should do with the $89 million from the Obamacare lawsuit, Kaul did call for the Obamacare expansion of Medicaid in Wisconsin.

“What I think we should be doing is working to expand health insurance coverage in Wisconsin and working to reduce costs,” Kaul said. “And there’s one way we can do that and save the state about $190 million a year, and that’s by expanding Medicaid.”

Kaul said more than 80,000 Wisconsinites would be added to Badgercare, the state Medicaid program, if the state of Wisconsin accepted the federal matching funds under Obamacare to expand Medicaid eligibility to 138 percent of the federal poverty line.

However, when Wisconsin made the decision to not accept the federal funds, Governor Scott Walker and the legislature changed the Badgercare program to make everyone under the federal poverty line eligible. Above the federal poverty line, Wisconsinites would shop the Obamacare health insurance exchanges. The move by Walker and the legislature eliminated the waiting list of 43,000 for BadgerCare under former Governor Jim Doyle (D).

The Kaiser Foundation, a leading independent think tank on health care, said Wisconsin was the only state to refuse the federal Obamacare money for Medicaid expansion to also eliminate health insurance coverage gaps.

Kaul was also incorrect about accepting the federal funds for Medicaid expansion would save taxpayers money. The state’s non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau issued a report in 2017 on accepting the Medicaid expansion federal funds. The state would have received $380 million from the federal government over the biennium of the current state budget cycle, which is the source of the figure of $190 million annually that Wisconsin’s Democrats have been using on the campaign trail this year.

However, the same Legislative Fiscal Bureau reports that accepting the money for Medicaid expansion would actually cost taxpayers over $1 billion. The net spending increase by the government would be $694.5 million, substantially more than would be received from the federal government by the state of Wisconsin.