Healthy Wisconsin is a healthy alternative

    Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:46 pm

    The Wisconsin Legislature is poised to make the fundamental changes needed to address Wisconsin’s health care crisis.

    We are responding to the middle class families and small business owners who have been asking for dramatic action to address our state’s health care crisis. At countless meetings around the state we heard from business owners who are struggling to afford health care for themselves and their employees. People like the owner of a small manufacturing firm in my district in Bay View, who is spending more than 20 percent of his payroll on health care, and people like the owner of a small business in downtown Eau Claire whose health care premiums rose 27 percent last year, 7.5 percent the year before that and 15 percent the year before that.  

    Based on what we heard from citizens across our state, legislators created a plan (known as Healthy Wisconsin) that will provide every Wisconsin citizen with their choice of doctor, their choice of provider, and will cover people regardless of pre-existing conditions or job status. It gives people the power to follow their dreams, whether it’s getting a job they’ve always wanted, or whether they want to start a new business on their own.

    The plan is paid for with an assessment that replaces what companies currently pay for health insurance. Employers will pay 10.5 percent of Social Security wages and employees will pay 4 percent of Social Security wages. Sole proprietors will pay 10 percent of Social Security wages. 

    The nationally-respected Lewin Group analyzed our proposal and found these changes will save most companies money, especially those companies already providing insurance to their employees. The savings are greatest, on average, for companies with 10 or fewer employees who already provide insurance. Lewin estimates that local governments will save $1.3 billion under the plan – savings that make property tax relief for property owners and businesses possible.

    People have proposed a state deduction for Health Savings Accounts and improved transparency as stand alone solutions to our health care crisis. By themselves, they are not a solution. The average Wisconsin has a family income of roughly $40,000. It is asking too much for a family already struggling to afford groceries and gasoline to save enough money to fill a Health Savings Account and have that be the only way to get health care.   Transparency, on the other hand, is already part of the initiative we are proposing and is a worthwhile initiative. But knowing how much a procedure costs is not the same as having the ability to pay for that procedure.

    In the coming weeks we will be debating different approaches to health care in the legislature. I hope that both sides of the aisle can come together to make access to quality, affordable health care a reality for more middle class families. Working together we can make this dramatic and positive change in Wisconsin’s health care system.  

    State Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee) represents the 19th District in the state Assembly and is the assistant minority leader.

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