Milwaukee editor says media must pay more attention to health care crisis

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The editor of Milwaukee Magazine writes: “Perhaps the most under-covered issue in the Milwaukee metro area is the cost of healthcare. Medical costs are killing this community in both public and private sectors.

Last week, a study by the Greater Milwaukee Business Foundation on Health Inc. found that physician fees for 13 procedures done by specialists are 30% to 40% higher in the Milwaukee area than in several other Midwestern cities. The group previously found that hospital costs in the Milwaukee area were among the nation’s highest. And past studies by others have shown that Milwaukee’s overall medical care costs were 25% higher than in other metro areas. …

How can you possibly freeze taxes and continue services when your operations, as is true of all governments, are heavily driven by personnel, by employees who get health insurance coverage? When one of your biggest costs has gone up 87%, more than four times faster than inflation, how do you avoid budget increases? Adding to the irony is that any property tax increase to help defray these costs will not be paid by hospitals because they are tax-exempt nonprofits, even though they annually report “profits??? and pay their executives mega-salaries.

Meanwhile, consider the impact on the private sector. How can Milwaukee’s businesses compete with those elsewhere when they are forced to absorb a cost for health insurance premiums that is so out of control? The business lobbying group, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, jumps on every tax that impacts businesses. Meanwhile, it seems to ignore a tidal wave of annual added costs coming from medical care inflation.

Ironically, local business leaders sit on the boards of local hospitals that are helping to drive these costs ever upward. Traditionally, these volunteers help raise donations for hospitals. Today, their time might be better spent demanding an explanation of rising costs.

I don’t claim to have any solutions to this crisis. But it’s a safe bet nothing will happen until more attention is paid to the issue. And the media can help make that happen. (my emphasis added)

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