Conservatively Speaking

State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.

Yet another new unaffordable state health care program

Government health care, Legislation

The state Senate Health Committee that I serve on conducted a public hearing Thursday and an executive session vote Friday on Senate Bill 484 that creates yet another public health insurance program in Wisconsin.  This time, the program would help with the overflow of the BadgerCare Plus Core plan – created in the budget to cover childless adults with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty line.


Because people will show up when a service is free, the program quickly filled, and the state began putting childless adults on a waiting list.  The waiting list is now 25,000 names long.


So the state rolls out another new program, the BadgerCare Plus Basic plan that is almost identical to the Core plan, except that it must be fully funded by fees paid by its enrollees – like a standard insurance plan.


The Department of Health Services (DHS) estimates that a minimum of 5,000 people on the Core plan waiting list will sign up for the Basic plan.  Based on that assumption, they say, a monthly premium of $130 will cover the program’s costs.


We shall see.  Based on historical patterns, this sounds like pie in the sky wishful thinking.


The bill does not include a limit on pre-existing conditions, and  there is not a requirement that an enrollee remain in the program for a specific length of time. 


Who will sign up?  Who will be willing to pay $130 a month?  Those who are already paying more for their health care, or those who expect to.  An eligible person will sign up as soon as he/she becomes aware of a medical problem.  Once their problems are taken care of, they will leave the program and relieve that pressure on their personal budgets.


This adverse selection effect is likely to make the program far more expensive than its proponents are saying. 


History shows us over and over again that government programs are always more expensive and less effective than advertised. When this one turns out to cost more than enrollee premiums can cover, does anyone really expect the government to pull back on services?  Or are we more likely to short doctors and hospitals, and go to the taxpayers for more?


History also shows us that government programs never die, they only grow.  While this bill’s proponents are touting it as a temporary fix, it is more likely that, next year, we will be hearing about this program’s faults and limits, and we will be asked to create yet another new program, or expand an existing one.

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