Janesville36.8°

Health insurance cost here among lowest in state

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GINA R. HEINE
December 5, 2007
— Health insurance costs in Janesville and Beloit are the second lowest among Wisconsin’s metropolitan areas, but the area also had the third-highest rate increase in 2006, according to a study released Tuesday

Janesville saw an 8 percent premium rate increase last year, according to the Wisconsin Health Insurance Cost Rankings 2008 study authored by Robert Kraig of Citizen Action of Wisconsin.


The study ranks the state’s major cities and regions on health insurance costs and explores underlying causes of heath care inflation.


The report found a 26 percent difference between the highest- and lowest-cost areas, which amounts to nearly a $4,000 annual difference for a family health insurance policy. The report also reveals that although southeastern Wisconsin has high costs, other areas are as high or higher.


Janesville benefits from being near Madison, which is the state’s lowest cost area because of its many integrated health insurance providers and systems and the efficiencies they offer, Kraig said.


But being at the bottom of the list in costs is only good in comparison to the rest of the state, he said. Wisconsin has among the highest health care costs in the nation—23 percent higher than the national average, he said.


That’s why Janesville residents shouldn’t be complacent even though they’re No. 14 out of 15 in state costs, he said.


“It’s sort of like saying we have a severe thunderstorm but we’re OK because they’re having a typhoon,” he said. “A severe thunderstorm can do a lot of damage.”


Last year, premium rates increased 8 percent in Janesville, while the state average was 6 percent.


“Given the fact that it’s four times the rate of inflation, it’s not all that comforting,” Kraig said.


The areas with the biggest increases tended to be the lower-cost areas, with the largest bump in the northeast. Appleton and Oshkosh had a 12 percent increase, while Green Bay jumped 10 percent.


Until a fundamental solution at the state or national level emerges, consumers will see increases much greater than inflation, he said.


“These numbers really point to the need for a real solution in Madison,” he said.


The only fix is to “change the system to guarantee access to everyone,” he said.


Citizen Action of Wisconsin maintains that Healthy Wisconsin, the health care reform plan passed by the Senate in June, is the only serious proposal that would guarantee affordable health care for everyone in the state, he said.


Healthy Wisconsin relies on a bidding process similar to the state plan and large buying pools to lower health insurance costs. A tax on businesses would fund the plan, but proponents say businesses would save money overall. The proposal stalled in the Republican-controlled Assembly.


It would be nice if people who oppose that plan presented a serious alternative because there’s no competition between plans, Kraig said.


“It’s not the only plan that theoretically could do the job, but it’s the only serious plan on the table,” he said.


The Janesville area is doing its part as far as representation with Sen. Judy Robson, D-Beloit; Rep. Chuck Benedict, D-Beloit, and Rep. Mike Sheridan, D-Janesville, he said.


“They’re all strong advocates of reform,” he said.


COST RANKINGS

Wisconsin Metro Area Health Insurance Cost Rankings 2008 (highest to lowest)


1. Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls, Menomonee, Superior, Hudson, River Falls


2. Milwaukee, Racine


3. Rhinelander


4. Kenosha


5. La Crosse, Tomah, Sparta


6. Wausau, Stevens Point, Wisconsin Rapids


7. Green Bay, Manitowoc, Sheboygan


8. Beaver Dam, Watertown


8. Appleton, Oshkosh


10. Fond du Lac


11. Monroe


12. Fort Atkinson


13. Platteville, Dodgeville


14. Janesville, Beloit


15. Madison


Wisconsin Regional Health Insurance Cost Rankings (highest to lowest)


1. Northwest


2. Southeastern


3. Central


4. Northeast


5. Southwestern


6. South Central


Source: Robert Kraig, “Wisconsin Health Insurance Cost Rankings 2008” report.



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