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Aug 29, 201711:57 AMInside Wisconsin

with Tom Still

Quality health care saves Wisconsin businesses money over the long haul

(page 1 of 2)

In the same week when Wisconsin’s overall health care quality was ranked No. 1 in the nation by the federal agency that tracks such data, the state Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council came up with a solution in search of a problem.

The council agreed with the state’s largest business lobby that companies are being overcharged by providers and hospitals for treating injured employees — and that adding a set fee schedule for medical procedures would keep costs down.

The recommendation, which may reach the Wisconsin Legislature in bill form, should be examined as part of a much larger issue: Employers who invest in high-quality health care for their workers get measurable returns on their investment.

The Worker’s Compensation issue has been a source of friction between Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the state’s medical community for years. The business lobby has argued that companies get charged too much for treating workers injured on the job. The medical community has countered by touting its record of fixing what ails those workers, cutting down on return trips to the hospital, and quickly returning healthier workers to their jobs and productivity.

While there will always be anecdotal examples to the contrary, the quality of health care in Wisconsin compares favorably to what can be found in any state. Moreover, employers who contribute to providing health coverage for their workers are paying somewhere in the mainstream of what companies in other states pay. Here are recent examples of quality scores.

  • The federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reported in late August that Wisconsin ranked No. 1 among the states in overall quality of health care, as measured by 200 statistical measures used by the agency to evaluate performance. Wisconsin historically ranks high in the federal study but cracked into the top spot this year, followed closely by Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
  • The AHRQ ranking follows on the heels of a No. 1 ranking for the state’s “critical access” hospitals by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration. Critical access hospitals are smaller facilities that provide essential services in rural areas; Wisconsin has 58 such hospitals. Maine, Utah, and Minnesota were next in the federal ratings.

If Wisconsin has high-quality health care, are employers paying through the nose to get it? While there can be striking regional differences on employer costs, the answer is a qualified “no.”

A recent study by the state of Oregon specifically targeted to Worker’s Compensation costs in all 50 states ranked Wisconsin’s premiums 12th highest in the nation and at 112% of the national median. However, other rankings of overall employer costs are a bit more favorable.

In a report released Aug. 24, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation calculated that employers in Wisconsin pay an average premium of $4,985 per employee for single health insurance coverage. That ranked 13th highest in the nation and within a few dollars of eight other states that ranked lower in employer costs.

(Continued)

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About This Blog

Tom Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He is the former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal.

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