Policy Documents

Health Insurance in Wisconsin: A Survey of Public Opinion

Sammis White, Ph.D –
April 1, 2004

In this extensive policy report, the author summarizes the contents by writing, as health care is being researched and debated across the country, we commissioned a study to examine issues involving health care and health care insurance in Wisconsin. Harris Interactive surveyed 1,000 Wisconsin residents to identify the types and origins of their health care insurance. The results are informative.

Over 51% of the adults in Wisconsin with health insurance receive their primary coverage through a government agency. To our knowledge this is the first time this kind of data has been examined in any state by any institution. There are enormous amounts of data in this in-depth study. Instead of just reporting the survey results, the author has tried to place them in the context of major issues facing Wisconsin, especially the rising health care costs, which are some of the highest in the country. People who receive government health care benefits usually have better coverage and spend less money than those in the private sector. While some of the results may be intuitive, this is the first time there has been hard data to clarify these issues.

One of the difficulties with the results is that there are no other states to compare our data with because no other state has tried to identify health care coverage as we have in Wisconsin. Later this year state government officials in Madison will debate the problem of health care costs. The data in this report will be extremely important because it demonstrates that Wisconsin residents with private health care insurance pay twice for health care coverage. First through their taxes they pay the insurance costs for public employees. Secondly they pay much higher premiums for their own insurance to cover the cost-shifting associated with low reimbursements to providers for government health care coverage. The amount of data in this study may overwhelm some, but it is an academic study, not rhetoric from lobbyists, which actually gives hard data about health care in Wisconsin based on information obtained directly from the citizens of our state. It is a document that needs to be replicated not only in Wisconsin but also in other states across the country. It seems almost ludicrous to talk about reforming health care insurance at any level in this country without having a basic knowledge of the kinds of coverage that now exist.