New Wisconsin Health Insurance Cost Ranking Report

Report finds continuing regional disparities on cost, inflation, and quality Wisconsin Health Insurance Premiums Tripled since 2000


Report Includes New Rates by City for Affordable Care Act Marketplaces

Statewide: Citizen Action of Wisconsin released its 9th Annual Wisconsin Health Insurance Cost Ranking report Wednesday morning on a statewide media call.  On the media call to comment on the report were U.S. Congresswoman Gwen Moore and State Senator Chris Larson. Listen to media call.

The full report includes 11 charts ranking the cities and regions of Wisconsin on health insurance costs, rate of inflation, and quality, and can be
downloaded here.

This year’s report finds wide disparities between higher and lower cost regions of Wisconsin, as well as large differences in the rate of health insurance inflation.  There is a 22% variation in the large group market between the lowest cost metro area (Madison) and the highest cost area (Rhinelander), which amounts to a difference of $1,763 per year for single health coverage.  On the small group and individual market, the report finds even higher regional disparities of as much as 42% between the highest cost and lowest cost Wisconsin city.

The magnitude of this gap could have significant economic consequences.  The report finds that Wisconsin health insurance premiums have more than tripled since 2000, increasing 211% since the year 2000 statewide, and as much 366% in some areas.

The report concludes that lower health insurance costs on the large group market in the Madison area provide key lessons on how to implement the Affordable Care Act, the national health care reform law, in Wisconsin.  

The report recommends that policymakers in Madison make controlling health care costs a more central focus. The report notes that making better use of all the tools available under the Affordable Care Act, such as taking enhanced dollars for BadgerCare and implementing more robust health insurance rate review could begin the process of moderating health insurance premiums in Wisconsin.

“The striking numbers in this report bring down to the local level the economic cost we are paying for skyrocketing health insurance costs, and the need to effectively implement the Affordable Care Act,”said Robert Kraig, the report author and the Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin.  “Wisconsin workers and families will not have full control of their own health care decisions until we get health care costs under control.”

“This valuable report sheds light on Governor Walker’s failure to fully implement the Affordable Care Act and the serious consequences his decisions have had for the people of Wisconsin. Governor Walker’s policies are needlessly hurting working families," said Congresswoman Gwen Moore who represents Wisconsin's 4th Congressional District. "I call on our local, state, and federal stakeholders to view this report as an opportunity to do what is necessary to improve health outcomes for Wisconsinites."

"Middle class families, especially in my district, are reeling from high cost yet low quality health plans," said Senator Chris Larson, Senate Democratic Leader. "State policy has an impact on health costs, the Legislature cannot fall asleep at the wheel as our neighbors are bringing down cost. Walker's insurance commissioner should use tools like rate review to level out health insurance costs.”

Key Findings: Wisconsin Health Insurance Cost Ranking 2015

  • Wisconsin large group health insurance rates have more than tripled since 2000, increasing 211% for a similar benefit package, with regional rates of inflation varying between a low of 172% in Madison to 366% in Green Bay and 247% in Appleton and Oshkosh.

  • Across all types of insurance the most expensive health insurance in Wisconsin is in the Southeast, Northwest, Central, and across the entire northern tier of the state.

  • Across most types of insurance, Madison is the lowest cost area.

  • There is a 22% variation between the highest cost metro area (Rhinelander) and the lowest cost metro area (Madison) on the large group market, which amounts to a $1,763 difference for a single policy each year.

  • On the small group market the high cost area (Rhinelander) has rates 35% higher than the lowest cost area (the greater Fox Valley), which amounts to $1,578.36 more per year for single coverage.  Milwaukee has rates 27% higher than those in the Fox Valley, which amounts to a $1,017 difference per year.

  • On the individual market, Superior has rates 42% higher than the lowest cost area (Madison), which amounts to a $1,702 difference per year for single coverage.  La Crosse, the second highest cost city for individual market insurance, has rates 41% higher than Madison, which amounts to a difference of $1,677 per year.

  • Rhinelander had the highest rate of large group health insurance inflation, with an 8% increase. It was closely followed by Green Bay, the Fox Valley, and other cities which had 6% increases. The statewide average was 4%.


  • For the first time in the history of this report Milwaukee and Racine had the lowest rate of large group health insurance inflation, at only 1%.

  • The one year inflation rates were extremely volatile in the individual and small group market. For example, in the individual market Superior saw an 18% increase while the Wisconsin region next to the Twin Cities saw a 10.9% reduction from 2014-2015. On the small group market Stevens Point saw a 15% decrease and the part of Wisconsin across from the Twin Cities saw a 17% reduction.

  • This report finds that there is no clear correlation between quality and health insurance costs, with some of the low cost areas of the state having higher quality insurance plans and some higher costs areas having lower quality.

    Additional data and 11 ranking charts are available in the full report which can be
    downloaded here.

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