Finding Common Ground and Moving Forward

“Is this BadgerChoice a good thing?” The mother asked me. She had health insurance through her Marine husband, but she really wanted to solve the health care problem. “What is the plan all about? How is it different from Healthy Wisconsin?” she asked me.

Last week Governor Doyle delivered his sixth State of the State address. He spoke of a new proposal called BadgerChoice. The Governor described a one stop shop for small business to buy health insurance. Small businesses will join together to leverage their purchasing clout to drive down costs. People would have a choice of many plans. Details are still a bit sketchy on how the plan will work.

To solve our health insurance problem, we know rising health costs must be controlled and everyone must have affordable choices. The Governor suggested competition among plans and insurance reform, like community rating, would keep costs down.

The plan is not the Senate’s version of health care reform – Healthy Wisconsin.

BadgerChoice differs from Healthy Wisconsin - it does not cover everyone and it pays for health insurance through premiums.  Healthy Wisconsin covers all those not now eligible for a public plan (like Medicare) and it pays for health care through a payroll assessment. BadgerChoice doesn’t change the way we pay for health insurance and it only addresses the problems faced by about a third of us – those who are small businesses.

Healthy Wisconsin takes us to a new world in health care; a world where no one is denied health care; a world where health care is disconnected from a certain job; a world where everyone has affordable health care simply because they exist. Health care is not free. Everyone pays their fair share. But everyone is covered and everyone can afford that coverage.

We know Healthy Wisconsin can work. The state employee’s plan, after which it is modeled, gives us the hard data that shows costs are lower when plans compete.

But changing one sixth of our economy is not easy. No one really likes change.

Leaders create a vision. Healthy Wisconsin gives us a vision of what is possible. Keeping the prize in mind, we must find common ground to move forward.

Change must come. Yet politics is the art of the possible.

There is no segment of our health insurance market more dysfunctional then the small group and individual markets. This is the place to begin to really solve problems. For that reason, I support the Governor’s plan. I see the plan as a step forward in a world where we have seen more political rankling and posturing and very little real cooperation.


The Governor has offered a way to provide help to many who desperately need help.

Is the Governor’s plan perfect? No plan ever will be. But it moves us forward and when you are at a dead standstill, forward it a very good place to go.

During the budget debate on health care, Representative Garthwaite (D–Dickeyville) from rural Grant County told a story about sending a few extra cows to the sale barn to pay for a child’s visit to the doctor.

“Farmers cannot continue to sell off assets to pay off health care bills, because when you do, you’re going to run out of both.” He continued to say we will lose our farmers if we don’t solve our health care problems: “If we don’t solve this problem we are going to be getting our food from the same place we get that quality toothpaste and quality pet food and it’s not going to be America.”

This problem is too big for political rankling; it’s too big to be concerned about who gets credit; it’s too big to worry about whether we are going too fast or too slow; it’s too big for business as usual in Madison. It’s time we put politics aside and find common ground so we can all move forward.