Walker uses MN visit to outline health care overhaul

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker presented his plan to replace President Barack Obama's health care law during a Tuesday campaign stop at Cass Screw Machine Products in Brooklyn Center, Minn. Walker is seeking to distinguish himself from Republicans who have failed to eliminate Obama's law.
Jim Mone | AP

Updated: 5:15 p.m. | Posted: 12:24 p.m.

Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker brought his 2016 presidential campaign to Minnesota Tuesday and outlined his plan for repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.

During an appearance at a Brooklyn Center factory, Walker said he wants to lower health insurance premiums, offer a new system of tax credits and allow people to buy their plans in any state. Local GOP supporters said the policy speech shows that Walker is making Minnesota one of his priority states.

Walker calls his proposal "The Day One Patient Freedom Plan," because he would send it to Congress immediately after taking the oath of office as president. Walker said the Republican majority in Congress hasn't done enough to repeal Obamacare, and he thinks dumping current coverage for those lawmakers and forcing them to get insurance from an exchange could spur results.

"I'm willing to stand up against anyone, including members of my own party," he said. "I'm willing to stand up against anyone to get the job done. We're not intimidated."

Walker's proposal would do away with the current law, including its taxes and its mandates. There would no longer be restrictions on where people shop for insurance. They could buy a plan from any state, not just their own. He said he wants to protect those with pre-existing conditions, but did not explain how.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, center
Republican presidential candidate and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, center, toured Cass Screw Machine Products in Brooklyn Center with company president Steve Wise, right, before presenting his health care plan.
Jim Mone | AP

Walker called for tax credits for anyone without employer-sponsored health insurance. The credits would be based on age rather than income. There would also be tax breaks for signing up for health savings accounts.

Walker contended that his plan would be "cost neutral" overall.

"We pay for the credits and other components by reforming the process by which the tax code treats some of the gold-plated health care plans out there," he said. "And by reforming and fixing Medicaid, by sending it back to the states where it's more effective and more efficient and more accountable to the American people and to the people who are served by these programs at the state and local level."

Walker, who's trying to be heard in a crowded GOP presidential field, described his plan as "big and bold." He said that's the way he's governed in Wisconsin, pushing a conservative agenda in the face of often strong opposition from labor unions and other interest groups.

Democrats were not impressed.

Minnesota DFL Party Chair Ken Martin said Walker's proposal was a "vague grab bag of conservative wish-list items" that would leave millions uninsured. He also said it was perplexing that Walker chose Minnesota for such an announcement, given how the state compares to Wisconsin on health care and a variety of economic measures.

"I find it somewhat amusing that Scott Walker thinks that he's going to be able to compete here in Minnesota — that somehow what he's done to Wisconsin would sell to even Republicans is somewhat comical to me," Martin said. "I think even Republicans here recognize that what's happened in Wisconsin by and large is not a recipe they want to follow."

Walker already has the support of several prominent Minnesota Republicans and is getting organized here much earlier than his GOP rivals.

Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt, who is chairing Walker's state campaign, said he thinks the Wisconsin governor is becoming a popular presidential pick.

"I think that he will do well in Minnesota," Daudt said. "I expect that he will be very successful next spring in the caucuses. And for the first time in quite some time, Minnesota could play a big role in selecting who our presidential nominee is on the Republican side because of the changes in the way caucuses will work next year."

Minnesota's 2016 precinct caucuses have been moved back to March 1, making them part of Super Tuesday. Party officials think that change will build more interest in the presidential nominating process.

Keith Downey, chairman of the Republican Party of Minnesota, said he thinks GOP candidates will pay a lot more attention to the state in the months ahead.

"The fact that one of the top-flight candidates came to Minnesota to deliver a policy address in a fairly big way is an indication of what's to come," he said.

Downey said another big change for Republicans next year is that they plan to factor in the results of a caucus presidential straw poll as they select convention delegates.

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