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April 21, 2008

Interest in Regional Health
Cooperative Draws Crowd


Baldwin, Wisconsin...A presentation on the prospects of creating a regional health care cooperative drew a large crowd in Baldwin April 18th.  The public gathering of small businesses leaders, self-employed, and other interested parties was hosted by State Senator Sheila Harsdorf and the St. Croix County Economic Development Corporation (SCEDC).  Over 100 people showed up for the two-hour session with presenter Mr. Bill Oemichen, President and CEO of the Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives.

“Health care cooperatives offer an opportunity for businesses and families to control costs and access better benefits,” said Harsdorf.

Health care cooperatives have been held up as a model for national reform and drawn bipartisan praise.  The first statewide cooperative, designed by the Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives for farmers and agribusinesses, exceed expectations with over 2,000 members at the end of its first year.  A recent one-year celebration in Eau Claire drew praise from state and federal leaders including U.S. Senator Herb Kohl, who was instrumental in getting federal support for the project, at the event.  State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) called this reform a “shining example” while State Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) lauded it as a “big step” forward in delivering affordable and accessible health care.  Governor Doyle’s office presented citations to members of the Board of Directors, of which Harsdorf served, commending their “exceptional effort in creating the nation’s first health care cooperative.”
“I am hopeful that we can build upon today’s session to offer a cooperative as a real alternative for small businesses,” said Harsdorf. 

SCEDC Executive Director Bill Rubin expressed that work establishing a cooperative will be ongoing.  Attendees of the session were invited to be active participants and will be kept posted on developments.  Interested parties that were unable to attend but would like to be updated should contact State Senator Sheila Harsdorf’s office by phone at 1-800-862-1092 or via email at