Public Policy Forum Blog

Healthy Wisconsin Plan

If State Senate Democrats were looking to spark further debate about health care in Wisconsin, then their proposal and passage of the Healthy Wisconsin Plan, which is estimated to cost $15.2 billion in its first year, has accomplished that goal. However, mixed reactions to the plan from elected officials and the business community may show the need for more debate and discussion than occurred in the two days between release of the full plan and the Senate’s final vote. A previous Public Policy Forum post notes that budgets are often used by Wisconsin legislators to create substantive policy change. Such changes are rarely given their own public hearings and the quality and extent of the debate surrounding the issues suffers.

A study sponsored by the AARP and conducted by the Lewin Group projects the possible costs for government and employers. The study projects that health care costs for all employers will decrease under the Healthy Wisconsin Plan, regardless of whether they currently contribute to insurance for their workers. This decrease is seen for all employers because the Lewin Group assumes that wages will go down to compensate for the increased payroll tax under the Healthy Wisconsin Plan. There is some debate as to whether the plan will attract businesses to Wisconsin or drive existing businesses away.

Now the Republican controlled Assembly will develop its own version of the budget bill. The Assembly Republicans have publicly stated that they will take the universal health plan out of the Assembly version of the budget. While Senate Democrats did not leave much time for examination and debate of their Healthy Wisconsin Plan, the Assembly has the opportunity to take time to sincerely discuss the plan before deleting it from the budget. As we noted after our Viewpoint Luncheon in May, the debate surrounding health care reform must include not only policy, but also health care outcomes and practices. A more balanced debate would include these factors along with the cost considerations that have been the focus thus far.