Wisconsin State Journal, January 10, 2011
As Wisconsin prepares to plug a $1.2 billion Medicaid hole, it should look beyond cutting enrollment, payments and entire benefit programs to another option: rationing care, as Oregon does. That's what the Wisconsin Medical Society, the state's doctor association, is proposing. Oregon ranks services and refuses to cover a fourth of them because of budget constraints. In Oregon, Medicaid covers ear tube surgery for chronic ear infections, for example, but not medications for pink eye. Treatments for vaginal cysts barely made the cut this year, while drugs for a skin rash fell just below. The goal is to save money without removing people from Medicaid, the state-federal health plan for the poor. Wisconsin's $6 billion Medicaid program, which expanded significantly under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, now covers 1.2 million people, or one in five residents.