MADISON

Gov. Scott Walker signed a $200 million bill Tuesday to stabilize Obamacare markets in Wisconsin even as state Attorney General Brad Schimel sued seeking to block the entire law.

The GOP governor—a longtime critic of the Affordable Care Act—has emphasized in recent weeks that he wants to hold down prices for insurance purchased through the law and make sure it’s affordable for state residents.

“Our Health Care Stability Plan is our solution to Washington’s failure; we want to provide health care stability and lower premiums for Wisconsin,” Walker said in a statement.

But Schimel, also a Republican, received Walker’s sign-off to move this week in a different direction, leading a group of 20 states who are suing to block Obamacare entirely. Though Republicans in Congress failed to repeal the law last year, Schimel argues that they made enough changes that the law is no longer constitutional.

“I bring this challenge to Obamacare because, as Wisconsin’s attorney general, I swore to uphold the rule of law and protect our state from overreaching and harmful actions from the federal government,” Schimel said in a statement.

The actions of the two top GOP leaders in the state Capitol underline the choice for their party on the ACA: do they keep trying to get rid of the law or accept and improve it since Congress didn’t replace it?

Schimel spokesman Johnny Koremenos confirmed Tuesday that the governor had signed off on the legal challenge—a necessary step before the attorney general can sue on the state’s behalf.

Jon Peacock, research director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, said the lawsuit could undercut Walker’s efforts to hold down prices in Obamacare markets and spook insurers who were already considering leaving it.

He said if Schimel succeeds, Republicans would have to come up with a plan to cover tens of thousands of Wisconsinites.

“The lawsuit is one more action designed to destabilize and sabotage the Affordable Care Act. Those actions have already been driving up the costs of marketplace premiums,” Peacock said.

Schimel is filing the Obamacare lawsuit in federal court in Texas and leading the case along with Ken Paxton, the Republican attorney general of that state.

In a 2012 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate in Obamacare by saying Congress had the authority to impose a tax on consumers who don’t purchase health insurance. Last year, Congress and President Donald Trump eliminated the tax.

Schimel’s lawsuit argues that because the tax has been dropped, the individual mandate to buy health insurance and, with it, the entire law are no longer constitutional.

Meanwhile, Walker on Tuesday signed his stabilization legislation, Senate Bill 770 as he toured hospitals in Tomah and Green Bay.

Walker has repeatedly rejected federal money available under Obamacare to expand Medicaid health programs for the poor. But the legislation will accept federal money to help hold down rising costs within the Obamacare individual insurance exchanges for those who make too much to qualify for federal subsidies.

State Democratic Party Chairwoman Martha Laning said the state would be better off if Walker had taken the full federal funding and expanded Medicaid.

“Anyone who values health care will be voting for Democratic representation this year,” Laning said.

The proposal passed the Assembly and Senate last week with bipartisan support.

This so-called reinsurance program is similar to one in Minnesota that is estimated to have lowered premiums by 20 percent this year compared with what they would have been otherwise. Oregon and Alaska also have established reinsurance funds, and federal reinsurance was also present in the ACA for its first three years.

The Wisconsin reinsurance plan would be funded by an estimated $150 million from the federal government and a $50 million state contribution, though those estimated amounts could rise higher, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

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