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Editorial: Another piece fits for health-care puzzle

The recent launch of Cooperative Health Choices of Western Wisconsin is good news for the little guy -- those working people who struggle to find affordable insurance coverage.

As last week's Journal story pointed out, the formation of this 17-county health co-op has potential to help the self-employed, small businesses, nonprofits, trade and labor groups, even local governments. The idea is that building such a co-op pools resources to allow members to get better deals on health insurance. In other words, it gives the ability to be a large-volume purchaser resulting in lower prices.

Legislation creating such health co-ops passed in March 2006 (Co-op Care Law). State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, advocated strongly for the concept. On the other side of the state, a similar type of co-op -- Healthy Lifestyles of Brown County -- has operated in the Green Bay area for two years.

Beside lower insurance premiums, the Green Bay area co-op emphasizes wellness, education and personal responsibility. Aspects of its mission statement include:

  • Focus on disease/sickness prevention and on healthier lifestyles.
  • Being more attractive to insurers because premium dollars are managed wisely and members are given guidance on sickness and ailment trends.
  • Use of healthy lifestyle incentives to decrease premium costs
  • Save money and lives by requiring adult members to take a health risk assessment. Those with high risks are encouraged to make changes to reduce those risks, improve their health, thus lowering their medical bills.

Ultimately, dollars are then saved by all co-op members because fewer resources are tapped for costly medical treatments.

These elements are worth emulating. The complicated health-care crisis in this country may still require some type of national solution. However, politics being what it is, that has yet to materialize.

Meanwhile, in our own backyard, we have the new Cooperative Health Choices of Western Wisconsin for independent workers and small businesses, and the well-established, volunteer-driven, Free Health Clinic of St. Croix and Pierce Counties trying to serve the needs of the area's uninsured.

There's still much to be done, but the groundwork for broadening access to health care and keeping more of us healthy has begun.

Steve Healy of River Falls, former head of Pierce Pepin Electric Co-op, is president of the new CHC co-op. With questions about it, call Healy at 715-781-9081. An informational webcast about CHC is set for 11:30 a.m. Thursday, May 14. Go to or to to take part.

Has the news brought you down?

The Journal online poll question this week asked: Which of these best describes your reaction to the swine flu outbreak?

As of 1 p.m. Tuesday, the responses were:

  • Worried it will get much worse, 3 percent
  • Disgusted with the hyped 24/7 media coverage, 54 percent
  • Watchful, trying to stay current with news updates, 35 percent
  • Oblivious, more important things to bother about, 8 percent

    To vote, go to