October 15

Madison - The Wisconsin Association of Health Plans applauds the October 15 vote by the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) to recommend for passage Senate Bill 312 and Assembly Bill 394. The vote was 15 - 0, with one JFC member absent.

The bills approved by JFC provide for a transparent review process to ensure that policy choices concerning the State Group Health Plan are made with consideration for their impact on the state, taxpayers, and Wisconsin's competitive health insurance market.

"The discussion of the proposed legislation today clearly showed JFC members understand decisions about the State Group Health Plan have real and broad consequences beyond benefits for state employees," said Wisconsin Association of Health Plans CEO Nancy Wenzel.

According to a measure of market competitiveness, Wisconsin has the most competitive health insurance market in the country. The State Group Health Plan represents 14 percent of Wisconsin's commercial health insurance market. In the state's plan, 18 commercial health plans compete alongside a state-administered, self-funded benefit plan to serve more than 250,000 lives.

According to a 2013 analysis by the state's actuary and benefits consultant, the market competition model in the State Group Health Plan has been effective in driving cost containment over time. Average cost trends in Wisconsin were more than four percent below the national average, which translates into more than $1 billion in savings for the state over a five-year period.

"Wisconsin's competitive health insurance market is a unique state asset that promotes access to higher quality health care at a more affordable cost," said Ms. Wenzel. "Significant changes affecting 14 percent of the commercial health insurance market, state finances and the doctor-patient relationships of affected consumers merit broader review.

"Given the broad expertise of Committee members and the Committee's responsibility for state fiscal policy, Joint Finance Committee review is a good complement to the work of the Group Insurance Board and the Department of Employee Trust Funds," Ms. Wenzel said.

The proposed legislation is narrowly tailored to address the concerns expressed by Governor Scott Walker, who vetoed an oversight provision contained in the 2015 - 2017 State Budget bill. The Budget provision would have given the Legislature's Joint Committee on Employment Relations a role the Governor felt would have amounted to micro-management of the Group Insurance Board. SB 312 and AB 394 were drafted by the authors to provide oversight by JFC with more limited review power.

The Wisconsin Association of Health Plans is the voice 12 community-based health plans that provide health insurance coverage in every county of the state to individuals, employers and government programs.

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