Monday, October 31, 2011

More budget screw-ups, and more on Wis. health care

While I am enjoying the absurdity that is Mary Lazich's destined-to-fail redistricting and recall-repression moves, there have been some other important developments the last few days.

1. Hey, it's another Walker Administration budgeting foul-up! This time it was the Administration putting $45 million of Federal health funds into the budget that won't come to Wisconsin. Basically, the Walker boys thought there would be funds coming in from Washington that would have been as the result of a correction of disputed payments on disability programs. Turns out, that isn't going to happen, and the elderly will be screwed.
Wisconsin's Medicaid programs, which are paid for by the state and federal government, serve more than 1 million people.

The Republican Walker administration already is facing criticism from Democrats over other parts of their Medicaid savings proposal, which would shift hundreds of thousands of residents to lower-cost state plans or private plans. This latest blow will make it even more difficult to accomplish the goal of finding the needed savings to balance the state's budget.

Stephanie Smiley, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health Services, said the agency had been unaware of the letter until contacted by a reporter. Smiley said the state didn't currently have a backup plan to cover that money.

"If what you sent us is in fact a denial of these waiver initiatives, DHS will need to find the additional $45 million in (state money). We do not yet have a proposal to find this savings," Smiley said.

Another Health Services spokeswoman, Beth Kaplan, later confirmed that the Walker administration no longer expected to receive the money in light of the Sebelius letter.
In other words, the Walker Administration relied on "phantom revenue" and rosy scenarios. Gee, we haven't seen that before, have we?

In fact, before all the recall fun and games, the Transportation and Elections Commission had an interesting hearing regarding a bill that would establish an elected Milwaukee County Comptroller. One of those testifying in favor was none other than Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, who admitted that one of the reasons Milwaukee County was is such a budget bind was because over the previous several years overly optimistic assumptions on land sales, Transit TV ads, and other revenue projections didn't come through.

And who was the Exec whose Administration signed off on these phony numbers for budget years 2003-2011? You got, SCOTT WALKER. You can bet the Journal-Sentinel will skip the obvious reference Abele was making to Walker's budget lies in his time in Milwaukee, but those in the County sure know the truth (as evidenced by Barrett 62, Walker 38 last November).

2. Maybe it wasn't such good timing for Humana to whine about getting a waiver from having to actually cover people under Obamacare. Humana's 3rd Quarter earnings were announced today, and it was a blowout.
For the third quarter, Humana earned $444.7 million, or $2.67 per share. That compares with earnings of $393.2 million, or $2.32 per share, in the same quarter last year. Revenue climbed 11 percent to $9.3 billion.

Adjusted income was $2.54 per share, which easily beat Wall Street expectations. Analysts surveyed by FactSet expected, on average, earnings of $2.03 per share on $9.26 billion in revenue.
So given profits of nearly $150 million a month, I think Humana can afford a way to pay for coverage for a few more people and still be able to have up to 20% of premiums not go to actual care of the sick. Just a thought.

3. There'll be a lot more people out on the Wisconsin market too, because the DHS is out with their plan to cut $554 million out of Medicaid, mostly through increased out-of-pocket costs and throwing the working poor off of assistance and into the private market. Looks like Joint Finance will at least get a chance to review and discuss this in mid-November, and I'll guess there are a few things in this 126-page behemoth of details that should draw some interest.

The patterns of greed, incompetence, deception, and destruction continue from this administration and their friends in the health insurance industry. Fortunately, I think we'll be breaking the chain soon enough.

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