Dane County health insurance costs are lowest in Wisconsin

A new study by the Institute for One Wisconsin found that Dane County had the lowest regional health insurance cost in the state, as did the Madison metropolitan area compared to other metro areas.
The analysis by the nonprofit research and education organization, which supports a progressive agenda, found that there was a nearly 30 percent cost variation between the highest and lowest cost areas.
Northwestern Wisconsin had the highest costs by region, followed by west-central and then southeastern Wisconsin. The Racine metro area had the highest cost, followed by the Chippewa Valley and then La Crosse.
By Anita Weier, The Capitol Times, October 31, 2006.
October 31, 2006

Milwaukee, which has been the focus of previous reports for high health care costs, ranked fourth.
“There is increasing evidence that the employer-based health care system is under severe stress in Wisconsin,” the report also found. The percentage of Wisconsin workers who had health insurance through their employers plunged from 73 percent in 1979 to 56 percent in 2004.
John Kraus, executive director of the institute, said the report also shows that the consolidation of health systems is a major factor driving up health insurance costs, and – conversely – that large buying pools can bring costs down.
The data did not support the contention that cost shifting of non-reimbursed costs from Medicaid and Medicare patients to private insurance rates is a major factor in high health care costs.
If cost shifting were a big factor, the highest health insurance costs would be in metro areas and regions of the state with much higher Medicaid use, poverty rates and numbers of uninsured people. But some of the highest cost areas, such as La Crosse and Eau Claire, did not fit that pattern.
The study compared the relative health insurance costs across regions and metropolitan areas of Wisconsin by analyzing the 2007 rates paid by the state of Wisconsin’s Group Health Insurance Program, which covered 194,000 people – including state employees and retirees and their families – in 2006. Twenty-one participating private health insurance plans in the program cover almost every county in the state.
Dane County qualified as a region because it has such a large number of state employees covered through the insurance program. That fact lends credence to the idea that bargaining power gets better rates, as does having a competitive health care provider market, such as is found in Madison.
The study found that annual Group Health Insurance Program costs for individuals totaled $5,607 in Madison, the lowest, compared with $7,213 in Racine. The state average was $6,501.
Regionally, Dane County had that same low figure of $5,607, while northwestern Wisconsin had the highest single plan cost at $7,189.