MADISON (WKOW) -- Members of a state board stopped short of taking the first step toward Wisconsin's self-insurance of state employees, opting instead to get more information on the factors driving health care costs for the employee group.
Discussing the self-insurance proposal, members of the state group insurance board considered whether to begin putting together requests for proposal (RFP) for a self-insurance plan for state workers as a pilot project; regionally; or statewide. But members decided more detailed data was needed to frame any RFP.
"You really need to have that data to make a solid step forward," said committee member Terri Carlson, policy adviser for the state insurance commissioner's office.
State officials have said self-insuring state workers could save four percent or more in costs, based on the experience of other states.
Representatives of labor unions and some health plans say Wisconsin's current system or more than a dozen providers for state employees works well, and the proposed change could affect health care access, quality, and patient-provider relationships.
A consultant for Minnesota told board members self-insurance in that state has reduced health care costs, after an initial spike in costs when the state transitioned to self-insurance, and has worked satisfactorily.
Currently, about 236,000 state employees and their family members get their insurance from 18 health maintenance organizations. Under a self-insurance approach, the state would carry the risk for losses and pay benefits directly to employees, instead of buying insurance from the private market.
Gov. Walker supports examining the issue but has not supported any particular approach yet.
A report by Deloitte consultants said the state could save 4 percent to 5 percent per year by becoming self-insured, with savings mainly coming from taxes and fees imposed for fully-insured programs under the federal health care law.
Walker said the imposition of those taxes and fees led to the consideration of the self-insurance approach.
Consideration of changing the system has drawn opposition from the Wisconsin State Employees Union as well as the Wisconsin Association of Health Plans, which represents 10 of the 18 HMOs that currently provide coverage to state workers.
Phil Dougherty, senior executive officer of the Wisconsin Association of Health Plans, said he was pleased that the board decided Friday to get more information before moving forward.
"This is a significant decision," he said. "The question of self-funding poses risks to the state, particularly the health insurance market."
Dougherty's group estimates that changing to a self-insurance model would eliminate 15 percent of the state's fully-insured insurance market.
Even if a change were made, the earliest it could take effect would be 2015.
The state group insurance board is expected to have medical cost data and again consider the self-insurance model Nov. 12.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2013 WorldNow and WKOW. All Rights Reserved.
Persons with disabilities who need assistance with issues relating to the content of this station's public inspection file should contact Program Manager Jessica Miller at 608-661-2794. Questions or concerns relating to the accessibility of the FCC's online public file system should be directed to the FCC at 888-225-5322, at 888-835-5322 (TTY) or at email@example.com.