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Nov 7, 201709:47 AMInside Wisconsin

with Tom Still

Measuring quality: Why health care can attract business, workers

(page 1 of 2)

Every few years someone in state government laments, “We need a better brand for Wisconsin!” Cabinet secretaries scurry about, agency communications directors scratch their heads over possible slogans, and marketing campaigns go largely unfunded.

Here’s an idea: Let’s talk about Wisconsin’s tangible business assets without making it all about tourism and cheese (as much as Badger state loyalists value both).

One such asset is quality health care, a commodity largely taken for granted inside Wisconsin and largely unknown to people and companies who may be thinking of moving or expanding here.

Much like an educated workforce, reliable public utilities, and affordable business costs for land and talent are worth bragging about, so is quality health care. That’s the conclusion of a report issued this month by the Wisconsin Technology Council.

“Taking the pulse: How quality healthcare builds a better bottom line” examined leading indicators of health-care quality, based on public and private data. It also compared quality rankings to costs. Key findings were:

  • Wisconsin is consistently one of the top states for quality health care, as measured by 200 metrics compiled by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. It ranked No. 1 in the nation in 2017. In the seven-state region surrounding or within a day’s drive of Wisconsin, only two other states (Iowa and Minnesota) ranked in the top quartile. Wisconsin has ranked no lower than 7th nationally since 2006.
  • Wisconsin ranked just $3 above the national median ($4,666 versus $4,663) in the average employer share of single premium health insurance in 2015. That placed the state in the second-lowest cost quartile among the 50 states. Wisconsin was $800 above the national median ($13,187 versus $12,387) in the average employer share of family premium health insurance for the same year, still outside the most expensive quartile.
  • Wisconsin health insurance premiums are growing slower than other states in the seven-state region and the nation, especially since 2010. For single coverage, the cost increase has averaged 2.2% per year versus 3.8% nationally. Wisconsin ranked second best in the nation in this category. For family coverage, the cost increase has averaged 4% versus 4.5% nationally. Wisconsin is tied for 10th nationally in controlling the growth in family coverage premiums since 2010.
  • Wisconsin also ranks favorably in national and regional comparisons of deaths that could have been avoided by proper health care, Medicare 30-day hospital readmissions, hospital length of stays, mean inpatient charges, the percentage of the total population covered by health insurance, and use of electronic health records. All are rankings that speak to quality while controlling costs.

The logjam over Obamacare in Washington, D.C. has upended the health insurance market as companies and workers come to grips with rising costs. That confusion is playing out this fall in Wisconsin and elsewhere as group health plan enrollments come due for employers and employees alike.


Nov 7, 2017 04:40 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

And do it before we slide backwards like we did with early childhood programs. A key challenge facing health care is shrinking markets within the state- sections of the state have few if any health care choices and as a result are also economic dead zones. This has been somewhat improved by consolidations but in many places it is a long drive to basic health care much less a specialist. Fixing health care nationally (and it is all not cost- a key part of it is reducing medical errors)is critical for improving our economy.

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



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