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The doctor is in; bring your checkbook

Wisconsin State Roundup

January 1, 2006

The doctor is in; bring your checkbook

A recent federal study has found that some of the most expensive medical costs lie in the land of cheese.

In August, the Government Accountability Office released a report looking at medical costs for federal employees and retirees in 319 metro regions nationwide. To the surprise of many, Wisconsin had eight of the 10 highest-cost metro regions in the country (including La Crosse and Eau Claire, ranked first and third, respectively). Every metro in the state except one (Fond du Lac) ranked in the top 16 out of 319 metros analyzed nationwide.

The study also looked at hospital prices, and Wisconsin didn't fare particularly well there either. Only two (La Crosse and Milwaukee)of the state's 11 metros were included in the field of 232 metros analyzed, and both ranked in the top 10 (10th and fifth, respectively). Critics note that the scope of the study required it to use 2001 data, and the state healthcare market has changed since then. A separate survey by a health benefits consulting firm found that the average cost of health benefits in Wisconsin rose 9.2 percent in 2005, well above the national rate of 6.1 percent.

Ronald A. Wirtz