Another Shot at Healthy Wisconsin Falls Short
Torinus tries to use a Lewin Group report to criticize the Healthy Wisconsin plan. He writes:
The payroll tax to fund Healthy Wisconsin has been pegged at 14.5% - 4% from every employee in the state and 10.5% from the employer....
Now, 14.5% is a big number, but it's not the whole story.
On page 57 of the final Lewin Report, the initial payroll tax percentages are shown as 11.55% for the employer and 3.95% for the employee. That's 15.5% going in, not 14.5%.
It's true that page 57 of the final Lewin report puts the initial payroll assessment at 15.5 percent to start. But that report deals with the Wisconsin Health Plan (WHP), not Healthy Wisconsin.This is an acknowledgement that Torinus awkwardly makes a few paragraphs later, and he tries to use it to his advantage by saying that the use of high deductibles in the WHP should really make it less expensive than Healthy Wisconsin; hence, the 14.5 percent assessment projection for Healthy Wisconsin must really be low.
To bolster his point, Torinus cites an insurance broker who makes the obvious point that premiums decrease as the deductible increases.
On the surface, it appears that Torinus has struck gold -- he's managed to use a key piece of evidence for fundamental health care reform against the Healthy Wisconsin proposal. However, if you read that evidence a little more closely, the point virtually crumbles.
The most basic reason that the WHP costs more than Healthy Wisconsin is because it covers more people -- 225,000 more, to be exact. That's a 6 percent difference, which is due to the fact that Healthy Wisconsin incorporates the BadgerCare Plus plan that would increase participation in state health programs, thereby decreasing the number of people who would be eligible for Healthy Wisconsin.
This has an impact on the assessment rate since the WHP would have more low-income participants than the Healthy Wisconsin proposal, at least as they're both currently written.
What's more, while it's true that the premiums for plans under the WHP should be cheaper -- and they probably are -- the fact that the proposal includes funding each participant's HSA with $500, at a total cost of $1.5 billion in the first year, dries up a good chunk of that savings. There are also administrative differences between the two proposals that have an affect on costs.
But it was encouraging to see Torinus continue to speak positively, though in a veiled way, about the WHP. If he -- or, more importantly, the state GOP -- preferred to use that proposal as a starting point for discussions, it would be a big step in the right direction for health care reform in the state.