In June 2007, the Wisconsin State Senate became the first (and only) legislative chamber in the country to pass a fully-funded comprehensive health care reform package that would guarantee health care for all residents and enhance their choice of provider.  Healthy Wisconsin stands out for its guarantee of affordable health care, cost containment provisions, and consumer choice.  While not the sole model worth emulating, states should consider the elements of the plan that deliver on key values of cost, quality, and access.

Healthy Wisconsin would guarantee all residents who are not otherwise in a Federally-based health plan, like Medicare or Medicaid, with portable comprehensive benefits modeled after the current state legislators' health plan.  Health care would be financed with payroll deductions -- 9-12% of social security wages for employers and 2-4% of social security wages for employees -- instead of premiums.  Residents would be able to choose from various networks of providers, who would compete on metrics of quality, price, and access.

Costs would be cut system-wide through administrative efficiency, the negotiating power achieved by pooling all eligible residents, and improved systems for preventive care and chronic care management.  A report by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, "Good Deal: How Healthy Wisconsin Improves the Bottom Line for Wisconsin Families", estimates that the average household would save 40% to 62% under the new program compared to the current disjointed health care system -- an annual savings of $1,320 to $4,180 each year.  A Lewin Group study shows that employers currently providing coverage at some level would save $700 million dollars in the first year of the program and the state would save $1.3 billion each year for the next ten years.

A New Standard for Reform:  Although the conservative-led State Assembly refused to go along, progressive lawmakers and advocates who comprise the Healthy Wisconsin Coalition are pushing ahead, using the proposal and the Assembly's failure to support health care reform as major campaign issues in state legislative races this year.

Nationally, Healthy Wisconsin creates a new standard and model for state health care reform, as evidenced by similar legislation proposed in Washington earlier this year.  Healthy Wisconsin represents a shift away from the 2006 Massachusetts model for reform -- as well as those in Maine and Vermont -- by guaranteeing coverage to all residents and establishing a uniform, affordable funding mechanism that is proportional to employers' and families' ability to pay.  Where the Massachusetts law seeks to shore up the current disjointed system of multiple payers and private insurance companies, Healthy Wisconsin creates an integrated health care system that can tackle cost containment more effectively while enhancing health care choice.

Resources: Healthy Wisconsin: