Wisconsin Can Lead the Way for Healthcare Reform

Ever since the Federal Supreme Court’s ruling in June on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), I have been working alongside our members to figure out what compliance with the upheld law entails.

With over 2,000 pages in the bill, thousands of additional pages of federal guidance – some not yet released – employers, and in particular human resources departments, have spent their fair share of time and resources trying to keep up.

This summer, WMC hosted both a healthcare webinar and an in-person seminar to discuss compliance with the Affordable Care Act in 2012 and beyond. Good attendances and numerous questions at both these events make it easy to conclude that this law is nothing less than complicated.

Never mind the law’s trillion-dollar plus price tag, the continual increase in healthcare costs, the 20 new tax increases (that’s the latest number I have), and the political rhetoric. Employers have little time to get tied up in the talking points; they will do what is right and comply with the law.

From a policy perspective I hope people will start to acknowledge that this reform, at least so far, has done little to contain healthcare costs. Most businesses, before the passage of the federal health law, agreed that national reform was needed. The skyrocketing costs were not sustainable. The ACA is not the reform businesses bargained for.

All across the country, no matter the industry, people are wrestling with the new regulations, but in Wisconsin, we are subsidizing the law. That is because Wisconsin already had in place many of the provisions the federal law now requires. Things like:

  • Dependent coverage to age 26 (we were once to age 27!)
  • Required coverage of contraceptives
  • Required direct access to OB/GYN services
  • Required coverage of mammograms
  • Guaranteed issue of small group health insurance coverage
  • Guaranteed renewability of individual coverage
  • Guaranteed coverage regardless of health conditions (HIRSP)
  • Individuals could not be dropped from a policy because of a health condition
  • Prohibition of imposing preexisting conditions in virtually all markets
  • Rating limits imposed on insurers in a small group market
  • Independent external review
  • Coverage of working families with children
  • Medicaid expansion
  • Over 90 percent of the population with health insurance

Not only did Wisconsin already address these issues, insurers and healthcare providers were working to establish cost and quality measures to meet the demands of employers who were no longer willing to pay upwards of ten percent a year in healthcare cost increases.

So now, instead of getting real reform, employers in Wisconsin will be getting much of the same, but at a higher cost. This is in addition to employee coverage mandates and much more paperwork to provide to the federal government.

No matter what happens to the ACA after the November elections, we must advance policies that will lead to lower healthcare costs for everyone. I hope Wisconsin can be a model for the nation to review.

I am eager for WMC’s new healthcare committee to be a leader in this discussion. If you or someone you know has an interest is being part of the dialogue, please contact me at rhogan@wmc.org. We hope to commence the discussion this fall. 

By Rebecca Hogan, WMC Director of Health & Human Resources Policy

Follow Rebecca on Twitter @Rebecca_Hogan