Gov. Walker looking into self-insurance health plan for state - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Gov. Walker looking into self-insurance health plan for state employees

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Wisconsin's public sector workers could see another change to their benefits.  Gov. Scott Walker says he's made no decisions yet, but is looking at a new health insurance system for state employees.

Right now, public sector employers in Wisconsin can choose to negotiate health insurance plans with 18 different health maintenance organizations, more commonly known as HMO's.  In Dane County, that includes providers like Unity, Dean and WPS.

"All information I've ever seen from ETF, employee surveys, etc, show a high level of satisfaction with the care," said Rep. Robb Kahl (D-Monona), who used to negotiate for insurance plans on behalf of his employees when he was the Mayor of Monona.

But Gov. Walker is looking at switching the state to a self-insurance plan.  Minnesota is one of 20 states with such a system.  Instead of paying premiums to insurance providers who then cover claims, the state would use that money to establish a fund and pay out-of-pocket for employee health claims.  At least one insurance company would be chosen to help administer the system.

"There is no proposal on the table," Gov. Walker told reporters Wednesday morning.  "There is no offering we're putting out there, rather, we're saying, who's afraid of getting more information?  We should have all the information possible." 

Gov. Walker wanted a study of a new system, because of potential taxes and fees the new Affordable Care Act would place on the type of system Wisconsin currently uses.

"We've also got to look at what's the impact gonna be in terms of what impact would it have on a competitive marketplace, not only for our own employees coverage but what impact would it have on non-covered employees, non-state employees in markets all across the state," said Gov. Walker.

Rep. Kahl says he's open to looking at the idea, but thinks it should go through the legislative process.

"My fear is that this would be something just implemented without our input here in the legislature by the unelected insurance board, which is 11 people that are appointed," said Rep. Kahl.

Gov. Walker says he is asking the state's Group Insurance Board (GIB) to seek requests for proposals from companies who would be interested in administering a self-insurance plan for the state.  That will be discussed at that GIB's next meeting on October 11th.

The Governor has not said if he would seek legislative approval before implementing a change.

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) told reporters on Wednesday morning that he is looking into switching the way Wisconsin's state employees get their health insurance, but was quick to emphasize no proposal is on the table.

Gov. Walker says he is gathering all of the information he can to determine whether the state would benefit from self-insuring state workers.

Wisconsin currently contracts with 18 different HMO's to provide health insurance to its 236,000 state employees.  If the state switched to a self-insurance system, it would pay the cost of employee claims out-of-pocket as they are incurred, instead of paying a fixed premium to an insurance company.  20 other states currently self-insure for health care.

Gov. Walker says that he wants to know if a self-insurance plan would save money, by helping the state avoid new taxes and fees being put in place by the Affordable Care Act.

Capitol Bureau Chief Greg Neumann will have more on this story on 27 News at 5 and 6.

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