Viewpoint: Doyle obstructs reforms

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:40 pm

I am an employee benefit consultant and an active member of both the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU) and the Wisconsin Association of Health Underwriters (WAHU).

It has been said by many here in Wisconsin, but I am going to say it again: Wisconsin cannot afford to allow another term for Gov. Jim Doyle. He is against what is best for Wisconsinites, who struggle every day to keep up with their skyrocketing health care costs. This will continue the pain of employers trying to do business here in Wisconsin.

Doyle recently vetoed the legislation on health savings accounts (HSAs) for the third time.  This legislation would have matched the federal tax deduction for HSAs. These accounts are unique in the fact that they consist of contributions used for minor medical expenses, allowing participants to spend less money on high-deductible catastrophic coverage. With this third veto by Doyle, it should be noted that Wisconsin is one of only six states that have not as yet approved HSA legislation.

The governor tried to justify his actions with the argument that HSAs are only for the “healthy and wealthy.” This statement is simply not true. A study released by America’s Health Insurance Plans, eHealthInsurance and Assurant Health, shows that 27 percent of HSA purchasers have a net worth of less than $25,000. In addition, it was recently reported that nationally, one third of those who have enrolled in HSAs were previously uninsured.

The governor further defended his veto position by stating, “HSAs are inextricably linked to high-deductible medical insurance and therefore could decrease employer-sponsored insurance coverage.”

No study has shown tax-free HSAs lead to employers dropping health insurance coverage. In fact, anecdotal evidence supports the opposite conclusion. It is true that HSAs are linked to high-deductible insurance; but those plans are less expensive than low-deductible plans, making it easier for employers to continue providing coverage.

Not only are HSAs helping more Americans afford health insurance, they also are addressing the issue of rising health care costs. HSAs give consumers a reason to be value-conscious shoppers in the health care marketplace. When individuals pay more attention to the cost of health care and demand value for their dollars, they become better consumers and thus total health care spending will decline.

I believe a better system can be realized when Wisconsinites have choice and control over their health care decisions – with patients working alongside doctors to make those decisions.  The best way to do this is through choice and competition, which can work in the health care arena as they have in most sectors of our economy by encouraging innovation, transparency and stimulating new ideas for controlling costs and delivering care in a more effective way.

Dean M. Hoffman is the director of large group services at Diversified Insurance Services Inc. in Waukesha and has been in the employee benefit industry for more than 30 years. He is a past president of the Wisconsin Association of Health Underwriters and the current membership chair for Region 4 of the National Association of Health Underwriters. NAHU/WAHU is an association of highly qualified health insurance professionals with 22,000 members in the United States and more than 560 members in Wisconsin.


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