Point – Counterpoint

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:35 pm

An Idea Worth Consideration

By Curt Gielow, for SBT


The health care insurance purchasing idea that Rep. Jon Richards and I put on the table several weeks ago for public debate has certainly stimulated some. Unfortunately, most of those people reacting viscerally failed to analyze the idea prior to denouncing it.

Health care costs in the country are now 15.6 percent of the gross national product and are moving unabated toward 35 percent of GNP for our grandchildren. New and expensive technologies, replaceable parts, improved drug therapies and an increasingly aging population give us pause to consider the costs for our own health care and that of our aging parents.

Candid and honest discussions on health care public policy must start now. In fact, the national debate currently raging on Social Security should have begun 20 years ago.

Our proposal known as the Wisconsin Health Plan is not a government-run health plan.

First and foremost, it is an idea meant to stimulate serious and thoughtful discussion among a coalition of frustrated parties – people who are tired of the high costs of insurance premiums, out-of-control health care costs and the high number of uninsured.

Second, the plan is a proposal to use private market-based mechanisms to purchase health insurance (health insurance policies from companies that already operate in the private market). In essence, the plan proposes a means to pool our resources in order to have more buying power (i.e. more control) over health insurance premiums and ultimately health care costs.

As a means of generating discussion, the plan has been successful. Former state Sen. and former director of the Department of Health and Family Services and current businessman Joe Leean of Waupaca County is taking a leadership role in developing the plan by leading a working group dedicated to improving the idea.

The working group is comprised of representatives of small and large businesses, farmers and labor unions. Their goal is to improve on the idea – to answer the questions that have been raised and to find a cost-effective and affordable way to make the market work for us all.

The plan proposes that every citizen of Wisconsin under age 65 receive a basic health care insurance policy. Everyone over the age of 18 will receive a health savings account to use to pay deductibles or other health related expenses. The large group of people between 18 and 65 would pool their purchasing power and buy insurance from the private insurance market. The buying power of this large group will create leverage to obtain market-based cost savings.

The proposal does not create more state bureaucracy. It suggests creating a private entity to maintain the funding, negotiate with the insurers and provide the consumers with choice.

This proposal isn’t soup yet. There are many questions about how it will be funded. Other options can and should be entertained, but the idea alone is apparently enough to stimulate some people into responding with why it doesn’t work.

The idea was intended to be the starting point in a debate … not the final product or outcome. Those who loudly proclaim it a bad idea should bring forth their own ideas or at least work with this one to make it better. To solve the health care triple threat, we need an effective private market, consumer-focused purchasing pool that harnesses market forces to lower insurance costs … and to ultimately lower health care costs.

The idea put forth as the Wisconsin Health Plan is a step in the right direction. It is only an initial step. The working group will continue meeting in hopes of refining the initial idea. People interested in offering ideas or input can contact the Wisconsin Health Project at www.wisconsinhealthproject.org .

State Rep. Curt Gielow

(R-Mequon) is a co-sponsor of the Wisconsin Health Plan.

This New Idea is Flawed

By Michael Fredrich, for SBT


Anytime you hear of a plan offered by a "bipartisan pair of state lawmakers," it is time to seek cover. The 10 percent payroll tax proposed by Rep. Curt Gielow (R-Mequon) and Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee) is no exception.

Their plan would impose an 8 to 10 percent payroll tax on all employers in Wisconsin to pay for mandated health insurance for everyone under the age of 65. They believe the savings generated by enhanced purchasing power of a single, newly created Health Insurance Purchasing Corporation will more than offset the costs from the payroll tax.

Granted, this was just a trial balloon, but this idea needs to be euthanized before it gets traction.

It does not help when a spokesman for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce states that businesses are waiting to see more details before committing to the idea. This from the same group that thought an increase in the minimum wage was a good idea – go figure.

To date, no other business group in Wisconsin has voiced opposition to this plan. Let there be no equivocation, this plan is DOA at the Independent Business Association of Wisconsin. Over 91 percent of the responding members gave this plan an emphatic thumbs down.

The supporters of this plan think it should be analyzed. This is the type of proposal which does not require an exegesis. It can be dismissed without knowing the details because the basic premise of their plan – increased payroll taxes – is inane.

A few points:

• The solution to the rising costs of health care is not greater purchasing power. The only solution is the introduction of free market forces. For some reason, people in government think the problem with health care costs can be solved by increasing purchasing power – it can’t. The problem is our third-party payer system. We have just started to see the introduction of market forces with HSAs, so it is too early to see results but they will come.

• Loss of independence. No longer will companies and individuals be able to make reasoned decisions about health care – the People’s Republic of Wisconsin will dictate how you operate that portion of your business and everyone will take health insurance – like it or not.

• The 8 to 10 percent payroll tax will only increase. Just like every other government program, the cost of this program will be underestimated. The mechanism to compensate for the shortfall in revenue will be to increase the payroll tax, change coverage, fix prices or all of the above. Once this tax is in place, it will never go away.

• Wisconsin is already a tax hell. This proposal will hasten the demise of commerce in the People’s Republic which has been declining for years.

There seems to be a desire on the part of self-proclaimed cognoscenti in Madison to emulate Canada’s universal health care system. Why? In a June 9 ruling by the Canadian Supreme Court (hardly the bastion of conservatism) challenging the government’s monopoly of the health care system, the high court said, "The evidence in this case shows that delays in the public health care system are widespread, and that, in some serious cases, patients die as a result of waiting lists for public health care."

The system proposed by Gielow and Richards is the beginning of socialized medicine. One business organization, the Independent Business Association of Wisconsin, takes an aggressive stand against this foolishness. We have seen and heard all the details we need on this one to know it is a bad idea that needs to be placed on the scrap pile of other failed socialist ideas.

Michael Fredrich is president of Manitowoc Custom Molding and a member of the Independent Business Association of Wisconsin.

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