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Wisconsin State Senate Passes Guaranteed Health Care for All

June 27, 2007 Progressive States Network lauded the Wisconsin State Senate for approving this week the boldest and most comprehensive health care plan covering all residents to pass any legislative body in the nation. “If Wisconsin Senate leaders can get Healthy Wisconsin through budget negotiations intact, it would be hands down the boldest and most comprehensive health care reform that we’ve seen from any state,”? said Adam Thompson, PSN’s Health Care Policy Specialist. “Simply stated, it would do what every state and the federal government have failed to do so far: cover all residents.”? The plan, called Healthy Wisconsin, would provide all state residents under age 65 and who don’t qualify for expanded state Medicaid programs with comprehensive health care coverage and preserve freedom of choice of doctors. Under the plan, there would be no monthly premiums and only minimal co-pays and low annual deductibles. The plan would be financed by a simple payroll tax paid by employees (2-4% of social security wages) and employers (9-12% of wages). By replacing premiums with the payroll taxes, Senate Democrats estimate the average family would save $750 per year and employers that currently provide health benefits would spend 15% on average less than they currently spend. In fact, the plan is estimated to save state and local governments $1.3 billion per year, which Democrats pledge to use to reduce property taxes. “The payroll tax is a fair and simple way to finance health care as it ties an individual's costs directly to their income, their ability to pay,”? said Thompson. Further demonstrating the cost savings Healthy Wisconsin would realize for families, the difference between enacting Healthy Wisconsin and doing nothing is an estimated $13.8 billion over the next ten years, according to The Lewin Group. The benefit plan under Healthy Wisconsin would mirror the state employee’s and legislator’s health plan. It would guarantee coverage for comprehensive health care, including prescription drugs, mental health parity, free preventive care and incentives to choose high quality providers and manage chronic illnesses like diabetes. If this initiative is enacted, Wisconsin would be the first state to guarantee affordable health care to all state residents. What is also unique about Healthy Wisconsin is that it creates a dedicated funding source providing the necessary funds to plausibly achieve the goal of health care for all residents. Other state reforms enacted in recent years in Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine do not ensure necessary funding to ensure coverage for all residents. ###