How the state could reform health care

It is time for us to stop looking at the federal government to reform health care (they are gridlocked and will forever be), and to focus on state-supported reforms. When you consider that many of our states are bigger than most countries that have national health care, one would think that we could make progress on this level.

Earlier this month, the Wisconsin Senate approved Healthy Wisconsin, a plan that would provide comprehensive coverage and preserve freedom of choice of doctors for all residents under age 65 who don’t qualify for expanded Medicaid programs. There would be no monthly premiums, only minimal co-pays, and low annual deductibles.

Healthy Wisconsin would be financed with a simple payroll tax paid by employees (2 to 4 percent of social security wages) and employers (9 to 12 percent of wages). Similarly, sole proprietors would pay 10 percent of Social Security wages … . To ensure affordability for nonworking, low-income residents, Healthy Wisconsin expands BadgerCare, the state’s Medicaid program, to 300 percent of income for families and 200 percent for childless adults. That’s a start, anyway. It’s a model.

Rather than busting the state budget, Healthy Wisconsin was estimated to save state and local governments $1.3 billion per year, which the Senate leaders pledged to use to reduce property taxes. The Lewin Group, national health-care analysts, estimated the program would save the state $13.8 billion over the next 10 years. Families USA issued a report, “Healthy Wisconsin: Good Medicine for Wisconsin’s Economy,” noting that the plan would generate more than $1 billion in new business activity and create nearly 13,000 new jobs.

Now, of course the conservative Assembly refused to approve this bill, but it is only a matter of time. Hopefully it will be sooner than later.

We have a much better chance of grassroots organizing and pressuring our state reps to get moving here in the same direction. As employers in this state and in this city continue to drop coverage as they hire part-time-only employees at unsustainable wage rates with no benefits, we … [need] to support the model that other states are beginning to implement.

Election year is coming up. … We need to find people who will stand up and be counted to help reverse this disgraceful crisis that will only get worse over time.

— Ed Krasner

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