The Healthy Wisconsin proposal may have given a thumbs-down Wednesday by a few dozen small business leaders in the area.

But two days earlier, the reaction by the public was much different.

A listening session at the Heyde Center in Chippewa Falls that was open to the public drew about 60 people who heard details of the plan from Dr. Robert Kraig and Steve Schwartz from Citizen Action, who both played a role in the legislation passing the Senate.

“Dr. Kraig spoke at length about health care reform, and we answered people’s questions about the plan,” said Sen. Pat Kreitlow (D-Chippewa Falls), who voted for the Healthy Wisconsin plan.

Kreitlow, who said he wasn’t invited and did not attend Wednesday’s listening session, said the events were dissimilar.

“It hardly seems right to call it a Healthy Wisconsin forum without anyone who wrote the plan or could defend it,” Kreitlow said. “I’m sure all of the scare points were out there, but nobody was invited to talk factually about it.”

Kreitlow, who won a Senate seat in his first run for office last November, listed health care reform as one of the main campaign issues among voters.

“Until now, no one has ever put a plan on paper and passed it through a house of the Legislature,” he said. “At least we’re arguing details of a plan, instead of vague objectives.”

The Healthy Wisconsin plan provides health insurance for all Wisconsin residents, and it would be equivalent to the coverage under the state health care plan. But it comes with a $15 billion pricetag, and therein lies most of its criticism.

“I think this funding mechanism works. But I’m completely open to other proposals,” Kreitlow said, explaining that the senators in the conference committee share the same view.

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“We have shown a great deal of flexibility in our willingness to negotiate in the conference committee. The opposition just wants to take it completely out of the budget. But at least in the conference committee, they have the opportunity to work with us.”

Kreitlow didn’t dispute the claim that some employers will pay more under the plan. But he also said his goal is to strengthen the state’s business climate, and he is available to discuss any current or future concerns of business leaders.

“Any comprehensive health care plan will cost some people more,” he said, offering a couple of examples.

“There are some people who pay less right now because they are good bargain shoppers. But like the city of Eau Claire found out, you are only one good year away from losing that bargain.

“The other group is the one that pays $0 to insure its employees,” said Kreitlow.

“This puts everybody on the same playing field. That’s what makes it good, especially for the ones who have been doing the right thing and covering their employees all along.”

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