Citizen Action of Wisconsin
Press Release

New Wisconsin Health Insurance Cost Ranking

Milwaukee and Racine Have Highest Health Insurance Costs in State for 2013

By - Dec 19th, 2012 10:20 am

Statewide: Citizen Action of Wisconsin released its 7th Annual Wisconsin Health Insurance Cost Ranking report Wednesday morning on a statewide media call.  On the media call to comment on the report were Congressman Ron Kind and State Representative Jon Richards.

The full report includes 6 charts ranking the cities and regions of Wisconsin on health insurance costs, rate of inflation, and quality, and can be downloaded here.

This year’s report finds wide disparities between higher and lower cost regions of Wisconsin, as well as large differences in the rate of health insurance inflation.  There is a 24% variation between the lowest cost metro area (Madison) and the highest cost areas (Milwaukee and Racine), which amounts to a difference of $1,809 per year for single health coverage.  The magnitude of this gap could have significant economic consequences.  The report finds that Wisconsin health insurance premiums have increased 193% since 2000 statewide, and as much as over 300% in some areas.

This year’s report also finds a stunning inverse correlation between cost and quality, with the highest cost area of the state also having the lowest quality health insurance and the lowest cost area having the highest quality.

The report concludes that lower health insurance costs in the Madison area provide key lessons on how to implement the Affordable Care Act, the national health care reform law, in Wisconsin.  It also finds that Madison’s cost advantage may be beginning to shrink due to a recent spike in health inflation in that area.

“The striking numbers in this report bring down to the local level the economic cost we are paying for skyrocketing health insurance costs, and the need to effectively implement the Affordable Care Act,”said Robert Kraig, the report author and the Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin.  “Wisconsin workers and families will not have full control of their own health care decisions until we get health care costs under control.”

“We can’t get the economy moving unless we get health care costs under control,” said Congressman Ron Kind (D-La Crosse).  “It is clear that the status quo is unsustainable. This report shows that Wisconsin can do better if we use the Affordable Care Act to create a more competitive and integrated health care market that promotes lower cost and higher quality.”

“This report throws water on those who say the status quo is working just fine for Wisconsin health care consumers and small businesses,” said State Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee), the Ranking Democrat on the Assembly Health Committee.  “If we do a good job of implementing the new health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, we can reform the health insurance market by forcing it to compete on cost and quality, ultimately bringing costs under control.  The report’s findings also should be a wake-up call for Milwaukee that our health insurance market is not working. Wisconsin cannot be successful economically when its economic powerhouse has the highest health insurance costs and the lowest quality.”

“I am hopeful that the health insurance reforms required under the Affordable Care Act will drive down costs across the state,” said State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton), Chair of the Senate Health Care Committee.  “Businesses and consumers have seen their costs double in the last 10 years, we can’t allow that to continue, we can’t afford to.  We also need to see a greater correlation between cost and quality.”

Key Wisconsin Health Insurance Cost Ranking 2013 Findings

  • There is a 24% variation between the highest cost major metro area and the lowest cost metro area, which amounts to a $1,809 difference for a single policy each year.
  • Wisconsin health insurance rates have nearly doubled since 2000, increasing 193% for a similar benefit package.
  • The report finds a stunning inverse correlation between health insurance costs and quality, with the lowest cost area having the highest quality and the highest cost area having the lowest.  Quality is negatively correlated to the presence of national for-profit health insurance companies.
  • The highest cost metro areas are Milwaukee, Racine, Eau Claire, La Crosse and Wausau.
  • Madison remains the lowest cost metro area by a substantial margin.
  • Madison also experienced double the average state health insurance inflation rate this year (8%) suggesting that there may be damaging changes to the health care marketplace taking place there.
  • Green Bay, Appleton Oshkosh, and Milwaukee suffered the highest rates of health insurance inflation over the last decade.

In 2013 the federal government will build health insurance exchanges for the individual and small group markets under the terms of the Affordable Care Act.  The report finds that relatively lower health insurance costs and below average inflation in the Madison area lends empirical support to the value of a competitive bidding process that covers a large number of participants and includes both cost and quality as a mechanism to contain health insurance inflation.

Additional data and 6 ranking charts are available in the full report , which can be downloaded here

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