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President George W. Bush’s re-election has some in the insurance industry breathing a deep sigh of relief, believing the Republican victory is best in the long run for reducing health care costs and insurance premiums.
Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry’s campaign promised to create a system that would have covered all children up to the age of 18. While the idea may have been popular with some voters, insurance industry executives did not find the idea appealing.
Instead, they say the Bush administration’s plans of allowing market-driven initiatives and competition between health care providers to lower health care costs could work, and the recently enabled tax-free health savings accounts (HSAs) could help rein in health care costs for families.
"The market forces have the potential to have a wonderful effect on health care," said Jon Rauser, president of The Rauser Agency Inc., a Milwaukee-based health insurance brokerage. "The market forces have the potential to create the kind of competition that will be good for the market. It’s coming."
Rauser also said some health care providers have started posting prices for different services, along with the quality of those services, to enable health care consumers to compare prices.
"Getting the price and quality data is coming," he said. "At least with Bush being re-elected, we get four more years to let the market forces do their thing. If Kerry won, I was concerned there would be legislation to disrupt that. If they don’t work, this will be the No. 1 issue in four years."
Wisconsin could be poised to capitalize on the Bush market-driven plan because of the size of the health insurance market here, according to Thomas Hefty, an attorney with Reinhart, Boerner, Van Dueren S.C.’s Waukesha office who was the chairman and chief executive officer of Cobalt Corp., the former parent company of Blue Cross & Blue Shield United of Wisconsin.
"Wisconsin has one of the highest rates of coverage in the private market," Hefty said. "A focus on the market-based solutions should help states like Wisconsin."
Michael Derdzinski, executive vice president of employee benefits at Johnson Insurance, said transparency on specific cost and quality information of different medical procedures will be the next evolution in the health care industry.
Derdzinski said the HSAs, which have already been in demand by consumers to create savings on health care costs, may grow even more popular over the next four years, because Bush was re-elected.
Dr. Victoria Mondloch, a physician who is in the midst of building a new medical clinic in Menomonee Falls, said she is optimistic about four more years of the Bush administration because of the HSAs and a plan to transfer medical records to electronic files.
Mondloch said moving to an electronic-based medical record system will save time and money, because paper copies of medical records will no longer have to be shuttled back and forth between medical offices.
Mondloch’s clinic, which will be built near Appleton Avenue and Good Hope Road, will consist of two buildings, totaling 135,000 square feet. Total cost of the two buildings is estimated at $25 million.
The clinic will house both traditional and non-traditional medical practices, which Mondloch said will "surround the patient with practitioners, surround the patient with treatment."
She said the project had recently broken ground and is negotiating leases with health practitioners.
Dr. David Olson, president of the Medical Society of Milwaukee County, said he does not believe Bush being re-elected will have a large effect on the cost of health care in Wisconsin or across the nation.
However, Olson said that if Kerry had been elected, costs would rise because of his plan for national health coverage for children up to 18 years old.
"If you pick between the two, the Bush plan would have less (cost) impact than Kerry’s," Olson said. "Costs are going up anyway, and unless we take a big look at this, it will be very difficult to control or even get your arms around it."
Olson said many economists believed the Kerry plan would have added more costs to health care across the nation.
Jacqueline Dooley, part owner of TriTech Corp. of America, a Waukesha-based technology consultancy, said she was relieved about Bush’s re-election because she believed her company’s health care costs would have increased dramatically under the Kerry administration.
"It would have affected our hiring, advertising and the expos we wanted to do," Dooley said.
November 12, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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