Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A Health Care Plan that Deserves Excitement

Rather than spending hours trying to find an acceptable version of TABOR, at least one Republican Assemblyperson used yesterday to announce a plan that addresses a serious issue in Wisconsin and around the country: health care.

State Senator Russ Decker (D-Schofield) and Rep. Terry Musser (R-Black River Falls) just proposed a comprehensive health care plan for Wisconsin that provides near-universal coverage and effectively reduces the cost of health care in the state.

According to an article in the Capital Times, the plan was developed in consultation with the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, local governments, businesses, and medical experts from around the state.

It’s a plan that’s worth getting excited about.

The title of the plan—the Wisconsin Health Care Partnership Plan—is almost identical to the title of another piece of reform legislation announced by Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee) and Rep. Curt Gielow (R-Mequon) last summer.

And the two plans do have similarities. They both use funding through equalized assessments on employers and employees. And they both also seek to provide health care coverage to nearly everyone in Wisconsin (although the Richards/Gielow plan is arguably more universal because it ties participation to citizenship rather than employment like the Decker/Musser plan).

The two plans, however, are not the same.

The biggest fundamental difference between the two plans is that the Decker/Musser plan is a single-payer model, which would be more effective at controlling health care costs than the multiple-payer model employed in the Richards/Gielow plan. (See here for why.)

Additionally, the Decker/Musser plan provides comprehensive health care to recipients that covers “all medically necessary” care, whereas the Richards/Gielow plan guarantees only preventative care coverage and uses a tiered system to cover additional care.

Expect the health insurance industry to blow a gasket over the Decker/Musser plan, but everyone else in the state should be singing its praises. And that means conservatives, too.

Rather than continue to bash government employees for the health care benefits they receive, every conservative in the state will now get to enjoy those very benefits—and at a cheaper cost for everyone involved.

The Decker/Musser plan would effectively reign in health care costs by pooling recipients under a single-payer, thereby increasing the negotiating power of the payer in relation to the provider. Additionally, administrative costs will be significantly reduced by doing away with the overly-complex multiple-payer system.

These savings for governments and business alike are very real. Fond du Lac County Executive Allen Buechel, for example, estimates that the Decker/Musser plan could save his county $3.5 million per year—and that’s with providing essentially the same health care to employees that the county currently offers.

Other governmental and business leaders have jumped on board with the plan, too.

Near-universal comprehensive coverage. Less strain on government revenue. Cheaper for businesses.

What’s not to like?

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Useful Links: See here and here for info on the Decker/Musser plan; and see here and here for info on the Richards/Gielow plan.

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