Wisconsin models can transform national health care system

    The health care debate continues with the latest statistics indicating the majority of Americans like the healthcare they have. Eighty percent of the population has health care provided through their employer, and of those people, 70 percent rate their health care as good or excellent.

    Knowing that, is an extreme makeover of health care really needed?

    The State of Wisconsin ranks third in the nation for number of residents with health insurance. We’re garnering attention from federal and state legislators who feel that perhaps we have a model for health care modernization.
    Having recently been in Washington to meet with our congressmen and their legislative leads for health care, I can tell you that things are changing by the hour. There are real reform opportunities and modernization that can help address both access and cost without creating a new overwhelming federal bureaucracy. 

    The State of Wisconsin has programs that have demonstrated they can work, including BadgerCare, BadgerCare Plus, Senior Care and HIRSP (Health Insurance Risk Sharing Pool which offers health care to residents who are unable to find adequate health insurance coverage in the private market due to their medical conditions or who have lost their employer-sponsored group health insurance).

    By leveraging an undeniably successful program in HIRSP, where all stakeholders contribute equally, we believe we can stabilize the "guarantee issue" (which means individuals must be able to obtain health insurance regardless of their health history), in the small group market by bending the cost curve and providing multi-year rate guarantees.

    The programs that have been in place in the State of Wisconsin for years prove that we can effectively insure more individuals while controlling costs. Representatives at both the federal and state level are starting to promote moving this idea forward.

    The government says they need to keep private industry honest, but who is going to keep any potential public program honest and affordable to those who already have health insurance coverage?

    The public options referenced above still need to be refined to pay the physicians and hospitals equitably when compared to private plans and eliminate fraud. Let’s address what needs fixing in the existing public options and use the proven Wisconsin model to reform health care in the country. This approach worked successfully with welfare reform.

    Let us pursue reformed health care that leverages existing programs, and not a government takeover or extreme makeover of our health care system.


    Daniel Burkwald is president of Burkwald & Associates Inc. Pewaukee-based provider of consulting on employee  benefits, communication,  education and wellness.

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