Wisconsin will move to self-insure state workers beginning next year.
The state’s Group Insurance Board on Wednesday voted 10-1 to change the way the state finances a $1.5 billion health insurance program that covers about 250,000 state government workers and their dependents, along with some local employees. Instead of paying premiums to 17 HMOs, the state plans to pay benefits directly.
The long-discussed change must be approved by the state Legislature’s budget committee, although the co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee have both voiced concerns about the plan. “We’re willing to look for savings anywhere we possibly can,” said Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette). “But how our decisions affect small businesses and families throughout our state being able to have the ability to insure their own families – that is a part of the conversation that hasn’t been discussed.”
Nygren also noted that Wisconsin does already have a self-insurance option available to workers.
The board claims the action should save $60 million over the next two years, while retaining access to 98 percent of providers.
Governor Scott Walker’s two year state budget incorporates those anticipated savings, which Walker has said will be used on public schools. “He claims it’s going to save money, but we’ve had other reports that it’s actually going to cost money,” said state Representative Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh), who serves on the legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance. “I think it’s important that we have that conversation.”