Abele Calls for Creating Combined Public Employee Purchasing Pool to Lower Health Care Costs
County Exec Candidate Proposes Combining Municipal, County, State and School District Employees into One Health Care Pool; Change Would Save Taxpayer Money by Creating Greater Purchasing Power to Negotiate Lower Health Insurance Prices
Milwaukee — Milwaukee County Executive candidate Chris Abele announced that he will seek to create a combined public employee health insurance purchasing pool to drive down governments’ skyrocketing health care costs.
Abele pledged to work with stakeholders from all sides to combine employees from Milwaukee County, the State of Wisconsin, local municipalities, school districts, and other government entities to establish and focus on growing a purchasing pool large enough to negotiate lower costs in the health care marketplace.
“There is no question that health care costs are placing an enormous strain on government budgets at every level, but there is strength in numbers,” said Abele. “By creating as large of an employee health insurance pool as possible through combination and coordination, we can leverage larger numbers to reduce health care prices. I will work with state, municipal, and other officials – regardless of party – to bring about the change Milwaukee County needs to save taxpayer money.”
The plan would lower the cost to taxpayers of government health insurance by placing a very large number of employees into a single purchasing pool, and inviting competing private health care plans to submit their lowest bids. This will help hold down the taxpayers’ share — the employer share — of health insurance because it offers the competing health care plans such an enormous market share to bid on, as well as a strong incentive to hold down premiums and medical costs to gain a competitive advantage.
Abele’s plan would utilize a variety of incentives to attract participants from different governments, including linking participation in the pool to increased state aid levels or employees’ share of health insurance premium costs. By leveraging a series of innovative incentives, the plan would still allow for any local government to participate at the benefit level it chooses.
“Milwaukee County, like most levels of government, faces serious budget challenges, and we need major new reforms to get the County’s fiscal house in order,” said Abele. “A large purchasing pool creates powerful incentives to health care plans to hold down their premiums and there is no question that a bigger health insurance purchasing pool—like other bulk purchases—will lower our tax burden and address County debt by reducing employee costs. This is a change Milwaukee County needs to move forward.”
Abele’s proposal has already shown success in reigning in health care costs and delivering taxpayer savings. In Dane County, where the State of Wisconsin alone has a purchasing pool that accounts for over 20% of the health insurance market (excluding Medicaid and Medicare), the state has been able to lower its health insurance costs by approximately $1,000 for single coverage and approximately $3,000 for family coverage.
Chris’ plan to combine the County’s and other governments’ employee health care plans into a single purchasing pool is his latest consolidation idea to save taxpayer money, preserve services and get the County’s fiscal house in order. Chris has pledged to continue the work with the City of Milwaukee to improve the quality and efficiency of responses to 911 emergency calls by eliminating the need to transfer calls between the City and the County. Chris will explore ways to consolidate other functions, such as public works and health department services, between the County and municipalities. Abele also announced a plan with Mayor Tom Barrett to move Milwaukee County’s economic development team to the Department of City Development so the two departments can work cooperatively together develop the County’s long vacant Park East parcels.
Chris Abele is a business owner, civic leader and community advocate who is running for Milwaukee County Executive to work with anyone to create private sector jobs, get County debt under control, and protect vital services. He has worked to strengthen Milwaukee County by helping to build and grow programs in education, the environment, community development, health services and the arts. Chris is a champion of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, creating hope and opportunity for young people in our community. And he helped lead an outside audit of the county’s pension problems, and identified an idea that will save taxpayers millions of dollars.
Chris proudly lives in Milwaukee County with his wife, Miriam and their daughter, Lauren.