December 4, 2007
Health insurance costs more in Racine than most of state
Health insurance costs more in Racine than almost everywhere else in Wisconsin.
Milwaukee and Racine tied for second place in the cost rankings prepared by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, in a report released today. Actually, Racine moved down a notch "due to the additon of a new qualified health plan." Last year the city was the most costly in the state.
"The results very much distress me," said Mayor Gary Becker, in a statement read by William Altizer, coalition director of Americans for Democratic Action. "I am asking the Legislature to get to work on this problem, and pass real health care reform this session."
This year, the most costly region to buy health insurance is several metro areas in Western and Northwestern Wisconsin -- Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls, River Falls/Hudson and Superior -- in part because the city of Eau Claire was hit with a 57% increase in its 2008 rates.
The study found that health insurance in Milwaukee/Racine costs 25% more than in the state's least expensive city, Madison.
Monthly premium for single coverage here is $622.58, vs. $499.68 in Madison. Monthly premium for family coverage is $1,552.78, vs. $1,245.50. "This amounts to almost a $4,000 annual difference in the cost of a family policy and over a $1,500 difference in the cost of a single policy for the same benefits package," the report states. Racine/Milwaukee costs are almost 10% higher than the state average.
"This is an ongoing concern," said County Board Supervisor Diane Lange. "We are at a competitive disadvantage in our economy affecting workers and employers."
Juan Ruiz, of Voces de la Frontera, said, "A lot of poor people in the community have to decide: to eat or to buy their medicine."
The figures were obtained by analyzing the 2008 rates paid by the State of Wisconsin's Group Health Insurance Program. In 2006, the program covered over 194,000 individuals, including state employees, state retirees, some local government employees and retirees, and their immediate families and dependents.
Some other findings:
-- A November 2007 annual survey by Mercer Health & Benefits LLC found Wisconsin health insurance costs 23% above the national average ($1,868 more per employee).
-- Wisconsin health insurance costs increased 1-3% faster than the national average in 2007.
-- According to an actuarial analysis by the Lewin Group, Wisconsin health care costs will nearly double in the next 10 years, from $18.5 billion in 2007 to $35 billion in 2017.
-- "Managed competition" between health plans, in combination with large buying pools -- as proposed in the Senate's Healthy Wisconsin plan -- may place downward pressure on health care coverage costs.
-- In 1979, 73% of Wisconsin workers had health insurance through their jobs, but by 2005 the share had dropped to 58%.
The report was written by Robert Kraig, Ph.D., of Citizen Action of Wisconsin.