Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Jeff Stone Fails His Health Care Check Up

JSOnline reports on how each of the candidates for Milwaukee County Executive would approach the skyrocketing health care costs for the county.

Of course, the real solution is in the governor's hand, which would be to undo the deregulation passed by Tommy Thompson.  But Scott Walker isn't about to do anything that will actually help the tax payers, especially if it could harm his relationship to one of his big campaign donors.

Chris Abele touts a plan that would pool Milwaukee County's health care coverage with the states, in order to provide a larger pool and thus the ability to demand a better price from the insurance companies.  Abele also suggests that the state offer increased aid to local governments that also join this pool, thereby increasing the purchase power even more.

This is interesting plan, but I would be leery just because of who is in control of the state, for at least this very moment.  Walker has consistently shown he cannot effectively govern in an honest manner, and thus would probably refuse to do anything good with it.  If anything, I could see Walker raiding this fund to pay off one of his campaign donors, like selling the power plants to the Koch brothers for a song.

What is funny is the give and take between Stone and Abele as Stone tries to attack the plan:
The health care consolidation idea for public employees advanced by Abele also could backfire on others, Stone warned. By forcing insurers to compete on price for the business of covering public workers, the insurers would likely shift costs to private companies, Stone said. 
Abele said Stone was "more worried about insurance company profit margins than taxpayer savings."
Yeah, I can't imagine too many people would be crying if the fat cats in Big Insurance didn't make that $10 million bonus mark for a year or two and had to settle for only nine million.

Stone, on the other hand, has his own plan to address this issue.  His plan consists of two main points.

One point is taking advantage of the unethical and unconstitutional plan that he help ram down the collective throats of all Wisconsinites, despite the overwhelming outrage of the people and increasing unpopularity of their thuggish and dictatorial attitude.

The other part of his plan would consist of a wellness program.  A wellness program is a program in which employees are encouraged to choose healthy lifestyles including quitting smoking, eating properly and getting exercise.  The employees are often given monetary incentives to join.  The thought behind these programs is that by making the employees healthier, they won't need to put in as many claims and thus save money through the lower claims.

Any thinking, morally upright person is opposed to Stone's first point.  It is simply wrong to take away someone's rights just to pander to some well-moneyed special interests.  And to be honest, it is that bill that will probably cost Stone this race.  During the gubernatorial election, Walker lost in Milwaukee County by a landslide.  This bill has made Walker, and subsequently Stone, all the more unpopular.

That said, Stone's second point makes perfectly good sense.

How can I say that?

Well, because Milwaukee County has had a wellness program for the past five years.  As I have mentioned several times, in 2006, after Walker was forced out of his first gubernatorial run, his former political opponent, David Riemer came in and negotiated a contract with the unions.  This contract, at the insistence of the unions, included a wellness program that offered participants $100 each, and another $100 for a spouse, that participated in the program.

Stone, in an effort to shore up his case, cited Quad/Graphics, which also offered a three tier system which charged more for the more expensive kinds of health care coverage.  Likewise, Milwaukee County offered a two tier system, a HMO and a PPO plan, with the more flexible and more expensive PPO plan costing employees more in premiums and deductions if they chose this plan.

Ironically, the unethical bill that Stone just helped ram through the legislative system could wipe out the option of a tiered system, since the contributions could be the same, regardless of the plan..

You know, for someone who thinks he should be county executive, one would think that he would have done his homework a little bit better than this.  This is just another example of how out of touch Stone is with what is really going on in the world around him.

But there is a bright side for Stone, despite this bungling of a basic issue.  Stone is livid about how he is being coupled with Walker, even though he's marched in lockstep with him during the past several years.  Stone feels that pointing this fact out "demonizes" him..

As I pointed out earlier, the union pushed for this and Walker opposed it.  So now Stone can claim to be siding with the unions and against the governor.  I wonder how that will play with his base.

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