A new report is critical of a universal health care plan for Wisconsin. The Healthy Wisconsin plan, promoted by majority Democrats in the state Senate is under attack by The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, a conservative think tank. WPRI's George Lightbourn says if the plan becomes law, it will mean total government involvement in health care. "Proponents of Healthy Wisconsin maintain that it will not be a government program, that it's just simply insurance reform," says Lightbourn. "What our study outlines is the fact that it is indeed a government program from top to bottom."
Healthy Wisconsin would be funded by a new payroll tax, and the study claims that would mean a funding shortfall of up to $10 billion by 2017. "If ages don't grow as quickly as health care costs are growing — and they never have even come close to that — you will quickly have a shortfall," says Lightbourn. "Health care costs will, in all likelihood, continue rising much more rapidly than the increase in wages. In order for the spending for Healthy Wisconsin to be there, there would have to be an increase in the payroll tax."
But Robert Kraig, with the progressive group Citizen Action of Wisconsin , says the WPRI report fails to take into account the costs of doing nothing to reform health care. "Under Healthy Wisconsin, or any serious health care reform plan, we'll have a lot lower costs than we'll have if we do nothing," says Kraig. "If wages don't increase at a very high rate, there will be a lot more pain for working families in Wisconsin if we don't have real health care reform, than if we do. The right comparison is between the costs of doing nothing, versus what costs would be if we have health care reform."
Democratic legislative candidates are expected to use Healthy Wisconsin as a theme in this fall's elections. "It looks to me like WPRI is trying to influence the elections, and trying to discourage people from running on Healthy Wisconsin per se," says Kraig. "The truth is, people are running who are for health care reform on the idea of guaranteeing quality health care for everyone, not on a particular plan."