Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Three new bills passed by state senate

The state senate passed three major bills Tuesday that will protect consumers and protect individual privacy.

Senate Bill 81 will make it easier for small businesses and farmers to maintain affordable health insurance, Senate Bill 124 will allow citizens to get one free credit report a year, and Senate Bill 237 will make it illegal for pharmacies to sell patient information to pharmaceutical companies.

Under the first piece of new legislation, small business employees and farmers will be able to pool together to get better health insurance coverage.

According to Wayne Corey, executive director of Wisconsin Independent Businesses, this bill is an amendment to the Private Employee Health Care Coverage Program, an act that passed in 1999 but was never put into force.

Under current law, if a small business employee has a heart attack, the insurance company can raise rates 30 percent. This new bill would cap the increase at 10 percent.

“This bill would reverse a multitude of sins,” Corey said.

But Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, said the state cannot afford to loan the program the $850,000 it needs to get started.

“There is a major hole in the budget this year because of a declining economy,” Cowles said. “We simply don't have the money this year.”

Cowles said the results of this policy in other states where it has been passed, such as California, have been less than satisfactory.

“There is no evidence that this works anyplace else,” said Cowles.

Senate bill 124 will require credit bureaus to give consumers one free credit report per year upon request.

Julie Laundrie, press secretary for Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, said this bill is important because consumers are responsible for insuring that information on their credit reports is accurate. And although it is only $8.50 for a credit report, Laundrie said, credit bureaus sell reports for a hefty profit.

“With the new developments in technology, Sen. Erpenbach feels that it is necessary to allow people to have more control over their personal information,” Laundrie said. “Credit bureaus are making millions of dollars each year from selling consumers' credit information to secondary sources, and although it is important for companies to have access to your credit report before issuing you a credit card or giving you a loan, they are making enough so they should not charge consumers.”

Sen. Mary Panzer, R-West Bend, disagrees with Erpenbach's opinion.
“Under current legislation, when you are denied a loan you get a free credit report,” said Sen. Panzer spokesperson Maureen McNally. “She felt that it was unfair to pass on additional costs to businesses.”

But both Erpenbach and Panzer did agree on their support for SB 237, which would require pharmacies to keep patients' prescription drug information private. Under current state law, pharmaceutical companies can buy patients' prescription information.

Laundrie said there are strong medical privacy laws in Wisconsin, but current laws do not include pharmacies.

“This law would treat pharmacies like a doctor's office or a clinic,” Laundrie said.

According to McNally, Panzer agrees.
“The new bill makes the law more effective,” said McNally. “There was some concern the bill wasn't quite narrow enough, and this makes it more effective.”

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