Reinsurance explained: Walker's plan to lower health care costs in WisconsinSubmitted: 02/20/2018
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter

Reinsurance explained: Walker's plan to lower health care costs in Wisconsin
WAUSAU - Gov. Scott Walker sees health insurance premiums going up and insurers leaving Wisconsin's Obamacare marketplaces.

He has a plan he says will help fix both problems.

After touring the new cardiac intensive care unit at Aspirus Wausau Hospital on Tuesday, Walker promoted his plan.

"In my mind, Washington has failed [on health care]. Wisconsin is going to lead," he said.

Part of Walker's plan calls for using $50 million in state money and $150 million in federal money to make Obamacare plans more affordable through a concept called reinsurance.

Reinsurance money would help protect insurance companies from huge costs in certain expensive cases.

"That reinsurance aspect helps protect us from extreme variances in the care that we have to cover," said Aspirus President and CEO Matt Heywood. "That helps us be able to lower our rates."

Aspirus is a part-owner of insurance carrier Aspirus Arise. Aspirus anticipates being able to lower its premiums if Walker's plan becomes law. Walker believes that will be true in the in the individual marketplaces across the state.

"Premiums will go down dramatically for people on the individual market," he said.

Walker also hopes the change would attract more insurance companies to Wisconsin.

"I know that right now, we don't have enough choices, particularly in rural parts of the state," he said.

In 2017, most northcentral Wisconsin counties had three or four insurance carrier options on the individual marketplace. In 2018, most counties only had two options, as insurers pulled out.

"This would, one, help drive down premiums," Walker said "It wouldn't just go to insurers, it would help drive those premiums down, and two, that it would help encourage more of those plans."

Heywood said Aspirus doesn't take political stances, but he's a supporter of the plan.

"We take a stance on something we think that's good for our patients and it's good for health care," Heywood said. "Regardless of a Republican or Democrat proposing this, we would think this is the right thing to do for our patients and our communities."

Minnesota, Alaska, and Oregon all have similar plans to Walker's reinsurance proposal. The plan is up for votes this week in both the Assembly and Senate.

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MADISON, WIS. (AP) - Madison officials say Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents violated city policy by detaining at least six immigrants without letting police know ahead of time.

Madison Police Chief Mike Koval says the department has a working relationship with ICE, but the federal agency did not follow protocol. Koval says ICE has agreed to call the assistant police chief before making arrests in Madison. This time the agency called the Dane County Communications Center.

Koval says the arrests were made at separate workplaces and are not considered to be part of a raid. He says the community is in "hyper-warp distress mode."

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin says ICE told city officials the people arrested are believed to have committed serious crimes, but he does not know the specifics of the investigation.

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ANTIGO - People don't need to travel all over the world for international food. 

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WISCONSIN DELLS, WIS. (AP) - Three Illinois men are dead after their sport utility vehicle collided with a pickup near Wisconsin Dells.

Columbia County sheriff's authorities say the men were in a Toyota 4Runner that collided with a Chevrolet Silverado at an intersection on State Highway 127 on Saturday.

Authorities say the Toyota SUV apparently failed to yield the right of way at a stop sign. The three men died at the scene. Authorities say they apparently were not wearing seat belts.

The 33-year-old woman who was driving the pickup was flown to UW Hospital. Her passenger, a 33-year-old man, was taken to another hospital.

Names and hometowns of the victims were not released.

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RHINELANDER - A man died after a house fire in Rhinelander on Friday night.

According to a press release from the Rhinelander Police Department, Rhinelander police and firefighters responded to the fire at 320 Rose Street near Hodag Park around 7:30 p.m.  

Firefighters went inside the house soon after they arrived and found an unresponsive man on the floor.  Firefighters and paramedics tried to revive the man, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

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RHINELANDER - A house fire in Rhinelander left one man dead Friday.

Emergency responders got the call around 7:30 p.m. for a home near Hodag Park.

Steve Smith heard a dispatch call over his step-sons radio about the fire at his neighbor's home on Rose Street.

"We walked out the front door and it was plain as day," said Smith. "The flames were rolling out of the front window."

At first, Smith wasn't sure if anyone was in the home. "There was a man they brought out," said Smith. "unfortunately, I heard he was deceased,"

Police Chief Lloyd Gauthier confirmed the victim was found dead on the scene.

"Life saving measures were done by the paramedics. Unfortunately, the male had passed away," said Gauthier. "At this point, it appears that it was due to something left on the stove."

Gauthier says more details about the victim will be released on Monday. 

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WOODRUFF - Ascension Wisconsin Spirit Medical Transport hosted a fun-filled day for family and friends on Saturday.

This comes about five months after one of its helicopters crashed, killing three Spirit employees.

Regional manager Charles Kotke said those men were in mind today,

"Today is a day of bringing people together, as well as a celebration of our 25 year anniversary," said Kotke. "This team did an amazing job getting us back to caring for our patients and doing what we need to do to care of our community."

Flight paramedics showed off the aircrafts to people and the helicopter was a big hit.

"They definitely like to look at the aircrafts. See how we transport patients from point A to point B," said Northern Region Supervisor Ryan Short.

Next Saturday, Spirit is celebrating with more associates. The second part of the celebration will be in Stevens Point.

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