Lawmakers react to self-insurance plan

File photo of the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison. (WLUK/Andrew LaCombe)

GREEN BAY (WLUK) -- A plan to save the state millions of dollars and self-insure its employees is being met with some push back.

Gov. Scott Walker introduced the self-insurance plan as part of his two-year budget.

The projected savings would go to fund other parts of the budget. Some lawmakers question the savings.

At a stop in Green Bay Sunday, Governor Scott Walker said switching state workers to a self-insurance plan would save the state $60 million over the next two years.

"We believe conservatively $60 million and that's money I committed a year ago, more than a year ago, would go entirely into public education and that's what we put in this budget." said Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wisconsin.

Under the plan, Walker says the state would pay for health insurance for about 250,000 state workers and family members directly. That's opposed to buying insurance through 17 health maintenance organizations. The state would also assume the risk for medical claims.

"Almost every major private sector employer has self-insured, why do they know something that the public sector doesn't? Because in reality, we know self-insurance works." Walker said.

However, some lawmakers, like Democratic State Rep. Eric Genrich, have concerns.

"The governor has attached funding for K-12 schools, funding for the UW-System to whether or not the self-insurance plan is approved, and I think it's inappropriate. I'm hoping that the Joint Finance Committee sees fit to disentangle those concepts and like I said let the idea rise and fall on its own," said State Rep. Eric Genrich, D-Green Bay.

"I think the question is, will it actually save $60 million, it's a lot of money, but if there is an opportunity to save that kind of money for tax payers I think we need to look at it," said State Rep. David Steffen, R-Howard.

Steffen says switching to self-insurance wouldn't change people's coverage just how it is paid for.

"So instead of an insurance company holding the money, taking the risk and then making money off it, the state is going to hold the money and transfer that savings back to the people," Steffen explained.

"I do know there are varying points of view on this." State Rep. Mike Rohrkaste, R-Neenah.

Rohrkaste adds, he needs to take a closer look at the proposal before saying if he'd support it.

"I think as a member of joint finance I've got to take a hard look to see if we can save money for the state or find and utilize that money in some other areas," said Rohrkaste.

Last week, Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steinke said the legislature will likely reject the plan.

If it doesn't pass the budget committee Walker said he hopes lawmakers find a different way to increase public education funding.

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