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EDITORIAL: Healthcare plan will stimulate debate on possible solutions

There's good news and bad news about a new healthcare proposal introduced Monday in the Wisconsin Senate. First the bad: It was dumped on lawmakers at the last minute without bipartisan input. And it appears costly. But the good seems to outweigh...

There's good news and bad news about a new healthcare proposal introduced Monday in the Wisconsin Senate.

First the bad: It was dumped on lawmakers at the last minute without bipartisan input. And it appears costly.

But the good seems to outweigh the bad. Wisconsin already offers comprehensive care to almost all of its residents, and the new proposal opens the doors to additional discussion, which is sorely needed.

It's way too early to predict whether the plan will advance, at least in the current budget biennium. With Republicans already posturing themselves in opposition, the prospects aren't good.

But the effort is a positive step toward resolving a problem that is plaguing both workers and employers. With the cost of care rocketing beyond what most can afford, health insurance premiums are following the same trend. This has placed a significant burden on individuals and employers, yet Congress has turned a blind eye, and there's no indication our federal representatives will act anytime soon. Earmarking pork barrel projects, whether they're needed or not, seems to be the primary concern for both Democrats and Republicans.

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With Wisconsin's proposal now on the table, there can at least be a healthy discussion. Can the business world afford such a plan? Can workers? Have similar plans in other states succeeded or failed?

Debate also is needed on some questions we tend to avoid. For instance, should the government regulate the purchase of expensive equipment by healthcare providers in the same market? And even more controversial: Should procedures be rationed? Does it make sense to provide a half-million-dollar procedure in cases where extending life gains little in terms of time or quality?

Discussion is healthy. Let it begin.

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