Wisconsin's state health plan among richest
- Article by: SCOTT BAUER
- Associated Press
- August 12, 2014 - 5:15 PM
MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin state employees have one of the richest health insurance plans in the country, and also pay among the highest premiums for that coverage, according to a new report released Tuesday by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
The report studying public worker plans comes as states are looking at ways to control growing public employee health insurance costs.
On average, state health plans nationwide paid 92 percent of a typical enrollee's health care costs last year. In Wisconsin, that was 97 percent, making it richer than the average plans offered for sale under the federal health care law and better than what most private employers provide.
Only Connecticut had a higher actuarial value, at 98 percent, while four other states were the same as Wisconsin at 97 percent, according to the report.
Wisconsin's public employee plans would be labeled as "platinum" plans under the federal health care law, according to the report. The "silver" plan most people buy under the federal health care law paid just 70 percent of health care costs, while private employer plans are generally in the 80 percent range.
However, the average total premium per Wisconsin public worker was $1,331 in 2013, making it the fourth highest nationwide. The national average was $963. The 13 percent that Wisconsin state employees pay for health insurance costs now is slightly less than the national average of 16 percent, the report found.
Wisconsin public workers had paid about 6 percent of the cost for their health insurance prior to 2011, when Gov. Scott Walker proposed doubling that as part of the law known as Act 10 that also took away nearly all collective bargaining rights.
Public workers agreed to pay more for health insurance and pensions, as they fought to retain their ability to collectively bargain. But Walker prevailed on all the issues, which led to the 2012 recall he also defeated.
Walker's administration and the Republican leader of the state Senate both said the report confirms that Act 10 worked.
"We will continue to provide great benefits to state employees at a good value to our state's taxpayers," said Walker administration spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis. "This report highlights why Governor Walker took steps to keep costs down, while leading efforts to look at health care reform related to overall employee wellness."
Myranda Tanck, spokeswoman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, also said the report backed up changes made by Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature.
"Even while these reforms cut state health care costs by 3 percent since 2011, Wisconsin's state employee health plans have remained some of the best in the nation," Tanck said.
A spokesman for the state public employees union did not return an email seeking comment.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke has said that she supports the higher health insurance and pension contributions from public workers, but she would work to reinstate collective bargaining.
The report's authors said the study was done to help policymakers as states grapple with how to manage employee benefits, while also remaining competitive while attempting to attract and retain workers and deliver public services.
Wisconsin spent $1.1 billion on health care plans for state employees in 2013, down 3 percent from 2011 when the law changed to require employees to contribute more. Nationally costs rose 2 percent over the same period.
The report is part of a project by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation that studies state health care spending.
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