WISCONSINREPORT.COM (03/10/08) - A new report from Citizen Action of Wisconsin documents large health care cost savings for Wisconsin families if a Wisconsin initiative called Healthy Wisconsin is enacted. The release of the report coincides with a hearing by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on a revised version of the comprehensive health care reform plan. Healthy Wisconsin, which has received national attention as a health care reform model, was passed by the State Senate this summer as a budget amendment, but was blocked by the State Assembly. The revised version, SB 562, is sponsored by Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton), who is Chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
The report, “Good Deal: How Healthy Wisconsin Improves the Bottom Line for Wisconsin Families,” shows that the typical Wisconsin family would save between 40 percent and 62 percent. This amounts to savings of $1,320 and $4,180 per year over what Wisconsin families are paying now for health insurance premiums and deductibles. These findings shed additional light on the benefits of comprehensive health care reform, by bringing it down to the level of kitchen table economics.
The report uses an extremely conservative methodology that likely understates the family savings that would be achieved under Healthy Wisconsin. Also, the report’s tight focus on cost does not take into account the increased value of Healthy Wisconsin’s well above average benefits package (as good as what Legislators receive), or the additional value to a family of having health coverage they can never lose as long as they reside in Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin State AFL-CIO has been working intensely on the issue of guaranteeing quality, comprehensive, affordable health care to everyone in Wisconsin for well over seven years. The organization has given the legislators input on the current legislative attempts to create an affordable health care process for residents of Wisconsin.
Here is part of the points delivered to the legislative committee by a spokesperson from the Wisconsin AFL-CIO today (March 10, 2008)regarding the current proposal before legislators:
"There has been a great deal of discussion—pro and con—about Healthy Wisconsin since the Senate added it to their version of the Budget last summer. This discussion has been good. First, it has served to make the issue of quality and affordable health care for all the top domestic issue in Wisconsin. Second, it has demonstrated that it is indeed possible—and financially advantageous—to provide quality, affordable health care to everyone in Wisconsin. And third, it has raised questions not initially anticipated by the authors of Healthy Wisconsin."
"The phase-in for small businesses of the employer share of the payroll assessment that finances Healthy Wisconsin is especially important. According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, only 38.7 percent of firms with fewer than 10 employees provide insurance for their employees. But 70.1 percent of firms with 10 to 24 employees provide insurance. So targeting the phase-in to small businesses with 10 or fewer employees makes eminent good sense, since these firms are most likely not to provide insurance currently and would therefore have a significant increase in costs if required to remit 10.5 percent of payroll from the first day Healthy Wisconsin is implemented."
"Detractors of Healthy Wisconsin keep insisting—indeed hammering—that Healthy Wisconsin requires a 15 Billion dollar tax increase. This argument is simply untrue. It is deceptive and disingenuous, designed to frighten Wisconsinites into thinking that the cost of quality health care for everyone in Wisconsin is far beyond our means."
"Healthy Wisconsin funds health care in a different fashion—payroll assessments as opposed to premiums paid to insurance companies and HMO’s—but since those assessments replace currently paid premiums, we have to compare the two, not deceive people into thinking that Healthy Wisconsin will cost 15 Billion dollars more than we are paying now."
"If Healthy Wisconsin were in effect in 2007, our total health care expenditures for those covered by the Plan would have been 751 Million less than what we spent last year if no changes had been made. Furthermore, businesses that provide at least some health insurance to their employees would have saved 686 Million — and yet everyone in Wisconsin — including the currently uninsured and underinsured — would have the comprehensive, quality health care they need: guaranteed."
Based on those comments, the official stand of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO is that those who charge that “Healthy Wisconsin” is a massive 15 Billion dollar tax increase are deceiving the people of Wisconsin.
The AFL-CIO spokesperson who testified suggested that, if everyone — individual and employer alike — pays their fair share, it is possible to provide the best health care for everyone in Wisconsin: at a total cost less than today.
"We also know that by dramatically reducing unnecessary bureaucratic, administrative, underwriting, and price negotiation costs and building quality and best-practice standards into the very structure of the health care system in Wisconsin that we can cut costs and keep them to an even lesser rate of inflation."
"In addition, by requiring that everyone chose a primary care provider, giving them a medical “home”, and providing incentives for preventive care and chronic disease management, we know from all recent medical research that these measures will both improve the health of our population and reduce costs below what we are paying now."
The Wisconsin AFL-CIO testimony on the subject explained, that the organization believes Healthy Wisconsin would:
1. Eliminate personal bankruptcies due to unpaid medical costs (which are responsible for almost 50 percent of all individual or family bankruptcies today).
2. Allow people to change jobs, while now they may well have to stay in a job they hate just so they have health insurance for themselves and their family.
3. Allow people to start new businesses, without having to take the risk of going without health insurance and knowing that they could recruit top-notch employees who would also be guaranteed excellent health care.
4. Allow people to retire early and still get the health care they need, while continuing to pay their fair share toward the cost of their care. It would also allow someone to retire when they become eligible for Medicare, rather than having to work more years if they have a younger spouse who would have no access to health care once they were no longer covered by an employer’s policy.
In recent months Healthy Wisconsin has started to become a model for other states that want to ensure that all their people have quality, affordable, comprehensive health care.
A bill modeled on Healthy Wisconsin was introduced in the Washington State Legislature just weeks ago. Legislators in at least two other states are also looking to the Healthy Wisconsin model to solve the health care crisis they also face.
In the past, Wisconsin was a leader in Workers Compensation, and Unemployment Insurance. The official testimony submitted to the state legislature by the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, suggests that this is the time to provide leadership by passing Healthy Wisconsin legislation.