Health Reform Conference Draws a Crowd While Federal Changes Remain Unknown

On Wednesday July 19, Wisconsin Health News hosted a daylong conference titled, “Health Reform, what does it mean for Wisconsin?” The conference, featuring national and state health leaders, examined the status of federal health care reform and the potential impact on Wisconsin’s health care market.

The day began with a presentation from Avik Roy, a journalist and policy advisor to three Republican presidential candidates. Mr. Roy provided a historical perspective, walking through the policy decisions of previous decades to explain the country’s current health care dynamic. The problem, he mentioned, with a system focused on subsidization of care is that the users – customers – become insensitive to cost. Mr. Roy outlined his approach to addressing the problem: liberalization of exchanges, increase the eligibility age for Medicare, privatize and restructure Medicaid, alignment of drug prices, hospital consolidation and the utilization of technology to lower costs.

The morning finished with a panel discussion exploring the future of Medicaid, including State Medicaid Director Mike Heifetz and Wisconsin Hospital Association CEO Eric Borgerding. Panelists discussed the proposed changes to Medicaid in both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate versions of ACA’s “repeal and replace”, noting the concerning potential impact to Wisconsin due to the state’s unique approach under Medicaid. Without accepting enhanced federal match under ACA, Wisconsin expanded the BadgerCare Plus eligibility to all childless adults up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level. Heifetz stressed the state is being “penalized” for this balanced policy approach, leaving uncertainty for new funding models in the future.

The afternoon session included another panel discussion, this one discussing “What is next for health reform?”- a question that was clearly on everyone’s mind. The answer, was not provided, but afternoon panelists, including state Deputy Insurance Commissioner J.P. Wieske explored the impact of “doing nothing” on Wisconsin’s insurance market. Wieske stated that there is instability in the individual market and cautioned that no reform could led to “structural problems” in the market.

The day finished up with a panel discussion from Washington insiders, including national representatives from America’s Health Insurance Plans and American Medical Association. AHIP’s Leanne Gassaway stressed the need for reassurance regarding the cost sharing reduction payments. Neither panelist could predict the timing on what’s next for federal health care reform, but both weighed the possibility of several smaller pieces of legislations to address the issues with ACA.