It’s been said that “the greatest wealth is health.” If that’s true, then Wisconsin just got a little wealthier.
In their most recent study, the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality ranks Wisconsin #1 for health care quality among all 50 states. Up two places since last year, the news comes on the heels of Wisconsin’s rural Critical Access Hospitals being named the best in the nation. While these rankings certainly show some of the “wealth” that Wisconsin residents enjoy, this legislative session we’ve been taking on rising healthcare costs and expanding quality Wisconsin care by addressing some of the biggest challenges facing our health care system, including sky-high insurance costs, worker shortages, and the opioid and meth crises sweeping through the state.
One of the most concerning aspects of health care is the rising cost of health insurance. Ironically, under the federal Affordable Care Act, health insurance premiums in the US have increased 44% this year alone and families struggle more than ever to afford coverage. To address this issue for families in Wisconsin, Governor Walker recently signed the Healthcare Stability Plan into law. The plan, once approved by the federal government, will help insurers cover some of their most expensive claims. This will help to stabilize insurance premiums and keep costs down for everyone.
As Wisconsin baby boomers continue to reach retirement age, many of our most experienced doctors and nurses are leaving their fields. At the same time, the number of people living in Wisconsin who are 65 or older and who use health services more often is expected to double by 2030. This decline in workers combined with increased demand for care is a major challenge and requires an innovative approach. During the current legislative session we’ve passed a number of bills to cut needless red tape and create new incentives to join our healthcare workforce. Research shows that doctors who finish their medical residency in Wisconsin are very likely to stay here long-term. (No surprise as Wisconsin is a great place to live!) To capitalize on this, we’ve set aside $3.5 million in grants to help establish residencies and training programs to attract young doctors, nurses and physicians assistants to finish their training here and continue their important work in Wisconsin. Additionally, we’ve also started several innovative programs to help healthcare professionals on every level do more caring and deal with less government red tape.
Ballooning opioid and methamphetamine abuse is also a major strain on our communities, families, and our medical services. Though we’re far from the finish line, Wisconsin is nationally recognized as the leader in the fight against opioid and heroin abuse. Our innovative HOPE (Heroin, Opioid Prevention and Education) agenda is providing real results and other states are taking notice. This session we’ve built on this success by passing legislation that gives law enforcement more tools to stop drug trafficking while expanding drug treatment for those who need it. To help us continue to drive innovation, Wisconsin was awarded $7.5 billion as part of the federal 21st Century Cures Act. While opioid prescriptions have fallen 12% in the last year, there is a lot more work to be done.
As we work to stop rising health care costs, grow our health care workforce, and fight an opioid epidemic, it’s good to know that the care we’re working to protect and expand is the best in the nation. The foresight and hard work of previous generations and the dedication of our health care workforce today have truly added to the “wealth” of opportunity and richness of life that we’ve come to love in the Badger State.