Barrett would bring ‘adult leadership’ to health reform
The race to replace Jim Doyle as the next governor will determine how health care reform unfolds in Wisconsin.
The major candidates for governor have very different views on how or if the federal “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” will move forward in Wisconsin. The primary difference between the candidates follows partisan party lines: Democratic candidate Tom Barrett supports allowing the law to proceed in the state, while Republican candidates Mark Neumann and Scott Walker have called for Wisconsin to join several other states in a lawsuit that tries to stop the law from taking effect by challenging its constitutionality, particularly where it requires all Americans to have health insurance by 2014.
With the Sept. 14 primary coming up, ThirdCoast Digest will devote this column over the next few weeks to explore the major gubernatorial candidates’ stances on health care. The series begins with Milwaukee Mayor Barrett, who faces Oconomowoc businessman Tim John in the Democratic primary.
Although Barrett was unavailable for an interview, his campaign provided written responses to ThirdCoast Digest’s questions. As governor, the campaign stated, a Barrett administration would “bring adult leadership” to implementing the federal health law in Wisconsin.
Although people might disagree over the law’s specifics, it does contain provisions that all parties should agree with. Among them: stopping health insurance companies from denying insurance to children with pre-existing medical conditions, or requiring insurers to let adult children remain on their parents’ health plans up to age 26, the campaign said.
The Barrett camp also noted that Wisconsin is well on its way to reforming health care because of our state’s high number of insured residents, our “extensive health care infrastructure” along with state health programs like BadgerCare and BadgerCare Plus that insure low-income people and children, and Family Care, a long-term care program for seniors and the disabled.
With a majority of Wisconsin residents already covered by health insurance and state plans such as BadgerCare and BadgerCare Plus, Wisconsin is in a good position to access additional federal funds for additional health care services, the campaign’s statement said.
Barrett indicated he would review Gov. Doyle’s steps to ramp up health reform – such as opening the Wisconsin Office of Health Care Reform – to “develop the best way to carry out the law and maximize its success in Wisconsin,” the campaign said.
“Even in hyper-partisan times, there are reasonable and commonsense ways we can bring people together to maximize the greatest benefit from this legislation,” Barrett’s statement said.
As governor, Barrett would bring together business leaders, lawmakers, academics, and advocacy and policy groups on all sides of the health reform. If parts of the federal law don’t work to Wisconsin’s advantage, Barrett says he would work to make necessary changes.
To tackle health care costs, Barrett lays out a multi-pronged approach as part of his “Put Madison on a Diet” plan, including combining state and local governments’ health plans into one, large statewide purchasing pool. Such a pool would have greater leverage in negotiating with HMOs and insurance companies, thus saving state taxpayers as much as $339 million a year, according to the campaign.
In addition, Barrett would propose to offer BadgerCare Plus enrollees economic incentives to choose low-cost health plans, review state health insurance policies for overcharges, ensure that only those eligible to be in the state employee health plan are covered, give patients incentives to make cost-saving lifestyle choices, promote home and community based care to cut long-term health costs, set up tracking systems to reduce expensive medical mistakes, and cut Medicaid billing fraud.
Although Barrett’s Madison Diet doesn’t identify ways to help private employers lower health care costs, the plan does make the case that making government health plans more efficient and competitive will save taxpayer dollars and stimulate competition in the private insurance market.
In another area of state spending, the Barrett campaign calls for cutting spending on prison inmates’ medical care, which the Madison Diet plan describes as “Cadillac coverage for criminals.” The campaign claims its ideas would trim such costs by at least $95 million a year.