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High Health Care Costs Hurting Wisconsin’s Economic Competitiveness

By Willard T. Walker, Jr.

Wisconsin health care costs are some of the highest in the nation, placing a growing burden on our local businesses’ ability to thrive. In fact, Wisconsin has the 10th highest health care costs in the country according to the latest WalletHub report on the Best & Worst States for Health Care.

Hospitals and other providers often claim the high prices are due to the high quality of care they are providing. Unfortunately, the same report shows Wisconsin has slipped to 15th for health care outcomes – down six spots from just four years ago.

With costs increasing and quality slipping, policymakers need to make this a focus. As our state legislators plan for the 2023 legislative agenda, we need the health of our employer community prioritized and the tools to fight against price markups protected.

Higher health care costs are a burden to both employers and employees.

That is why, last year, Wisconsin’s business community came together to form the Coalition of Wisconsin Employer Groups Concerned about Health Care Costs. Since its inception, the coalition has been hard at work debunking myths around true cost-saving measures like alternative sourcing (commonly referred to as “white bagging”), a process implemented to deliver clinically administered drugs directly to patients, when appropriate.

Proposals to eliminate “white bagging” have been disguised as cost-saving, patient-protecting measures. In reality, these proposals are an attempt to fatten hospital profits by removing one of the few resources available to negotiate lower prices for specialty medications on behalf of patients.

If legislation to ban “white bagging” were to become law, health care costs would necessarily increase, and patients would be left with fewer choices when it comes to quality care.

This is at a time when studies continually cite hospital prices as the number one driver behind the skyrocketing cost of care in America. It doesn’t come as a surprise considering, on average, hospitals charge patients 479% of their acquisition cost of clinically administered medications. Additionally four in five hospitals charge patients and insurers more than double their acquisition cost for medicine.

Wisconsinites feel this reality more than most. While health care costs are high generally, our state ranks among the five states with the highest hospital prices in the country.

Employers like myself, dedicated to providing affordable, quality health care coverage to our employees, rely on critical tools such as white-bagging to combat the hospitals’ monopolistic billing practices. We need Wisconsin lawmakers to remember the impact affordable health care has on our economic stability.

With this in mind, I urge our state legislators to oppose any legislative proposals that would further compound the already unreasonable cost burden shouldered by Wisconsin’s business community and promote policy solutions that would actually see health care prices decrease.

Willard T. Walker Jr. is CEO of Walker Forge – a manufacturer in Wisconsin that produces custom forged steel parts for a variety of industries. Walker Forge is a member of the Coalition of Wisconsin Employer Groups Concerned About Health Care Costs.




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