Despite $6M Surplus, Wisconsin High-Risk Insurance Program May Raise Premiums
The Wisconsin Health Insurance Risk-Sharing Plan (HIRSP), an insurance program for people denied private coverage due to a pre-existing condition, has amassed a surplus of $6 million but nevertheless may raise premiums by 18% the state considers using the surplus funds elsewhere, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. The program costs $60.1 million annually, with $12 million of that cost funded by the state. The remaining amount is covered mostly by premiums, which vary based on a holder's age, sex, income and geographic location. By law, policyholders are not to pay more than 60% of the program's cost, but state Sen. Judy Robson (D) said a recent state audit found that participants pay about 70% of the cost. Robson said she fears Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) may claim the surplus funds to help balance his 2001-03 budget proposal, adding that she feels the funds should instead be returned to policyholders. But Health and Family Services Secretary Joe Leean said the governor does not plan to use the money, and Dianne Greenley, a member of the board that helps run the program, said she and other board members are most concerned that the state Legislature "might have designs on" the funds. Leean added, however, that returning all of the additional funds to policyholders is not a likely option, as state law requires premiums to be at least 150% of those for "standard policies in the private sector." Leean said, "We can't lower [the] premiums. And quite frankly, we shouldn't, because HIRSP is supposed to be an insurance policy of last resort. If we start competing with the private sector ... it'll destroy the program." Nevertheless, the program board is expected to consider plans to return $2.5 million to policyholders, reserving the rest to guard against "huge increases or decreases" of future premiums (Jones, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 11/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.