A free market think tank's new report claims the sick and uninsured would flock here for Healthy Wisconsin, while a liberal interest group claims the study is "junk science."
The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute , a free market think tank, says 142,000 people would move to Wisconsin if universal health care is approved. Researcher David Dodenhoff says they arrived at that number by looking a trends of migration based upon quality of life factors in differing states. They also looked at incentives for people who serve in uniform. "In the case of the military analysis, health care was one of the factors that influenced peoples decision," and Dodenhoff says the same can be said for civilians. "If people make decisions of that magnitude on the basis of health care availability, then it's certainly plausible to believe that people might chose something that's less momentous: their state of residence."
Although Healthy Wisconsin proponents point to the rising costs of health care as a reason to pass the mandate, Dodenhoff says the same inflation could happen under universal coverage. The only way to keep costs down is cut quality of care. "The history of health care provision anywhere is that it's expensive, and with programs like this, you end up with a choice of rapidly escalating costs, or rationing." The plan from Democratic state lawmakers involves a payroll tax to fund medical care for everyone.
It's the think tank versus the advocacy group, as Robert Kraig with Citizen Action of Wisconsin (PDF) slams the study of Healthy Wisconsin from the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. "It's based on constructing a theoretical economic model, you plug in the inputs and it comes to the conclusion you want it to come to," says Kraig. "We don't think it advances knowledge at all. It simply makes an ideological point that the authors wanted to make anyway, and dresses it up as social science."
While WPRI says 142,000 people would move to Wisconsin if universal health care is approved, Kraig says the study lacks data to back that claim up. "They could try to actually demonstrate that people migrate for benefits," says Kraig. "They cite the old argument from the '80s and '90s in Wisconsin, that people move to Wisconsin for welfare, and their citation is from Tommy Thompson in a gubernatorial debate. In other words, they have nothing to cite, because there is no research on this."
Kraig claims reform like Healthy Wisconsin would improve the Wisconsin economy by attracting businesses to the state, something he says the WPRI study does not address. "There is a lot of empirical evidence that business relocation is based on health care costs, and so if you want to make an economic argument, there's a much stronger one to be made that if you lower health care costs with health care reform, that will improve the economy vastly, by bringing businesses into the state."