WAUSAU (AP) - Thousands of farm families, small business ownersand self-employed workers in Wisconsin became eligible Thursday for anew program designed to help them get more affordable healthinsurance.
Gov. Jim Doyle signed legislation into law that creates five regional health insurance purchasing cooperatives with the power topool individuals to negotiate directly with health insuranceproviders and collectively bargain for cheaper coverage.
Wisconsin farmers face a health care crisis, already paying threetimes as much for their health insurance as salaried employeesworking for a company, Doyle said.
'I don't think anyone believes this will be the absolutely perfectanswer, but it will provide some help,' Doyle said before signing thelegislation.
'We can raise prices and productivity of our farmers, but it won'tmatter if increased profits just go to cover rising health carepremiums or if farms go under because our farmers can't afford healthcare coverage for their families,' he said.
The governor said some Wisconsin farmers pay $1,900 per month forhealth insurance premiums that include a $2,500 annual deductible.
'It is no wonder 25 percent of Wisconsin farmers have no healthinsurance coverage at all,' Doyle said.
About 50 people watched the signing ceremony at FCS FinancialServices, a member-owned cooperative that provides loans and otherservices to agricultural customers and home owners.
It's believed the new alliances can negotiate health insurancepolicies that lower the premiums on average at least 10 percent andperhaps as much as 35 percent compared with what the individuals andtheir families now pay, Oemichen said.
The biggest advantage will come in lower annual deductibles on thepolicies, perhaps to $250 to $500, he said.
The first policies could be in place by next summer, Oemichensaid.
Wayne Corey, executive director of Wisconsin IndependentBusinesses, predicted the change Doyle signed into law wouldstabilize health insurance costs and revitalize many smallbusinesses, enhance their profitability and make more money availablefor employee raises and other benefits.
Copyright 2000 by Telegraph Herald, All rights Reserved.