I've long figured out that Scott Walker and DHS Secretary Dennis Smith were up to no good when it came to helping Wisconsinites get quality and affordable health insurance. From the deceptions on a state report on the positives of Obama's health care reform, to misjudging a federal disability rule and costing Wisconsin millions, to the Family Care fiasco, to the (intentional?) overstating of the Medicaid deficit as an excuse to cut it further than needed. But the last 7 days have taken this evil treatment of health care in Wisconsin to new levels.
It started with the hiring of an an oncology nurse to take over the state's emergency public health management, and then added a former insurance industry lobbyist and another state's liason to other lobbyists to be the DHS' top lawyer. Bad enough on its face, but here come the real kickers on these hires.
The oncology nurse ran a small group of hospitals and only came to prominence by writing an article for the Heritage Foundation, a bastion of right-wing hackery that previously employed...Dennis Smith. Scary enough for the affirmative action hire, but then you realize both come from TEXASS! "But Jake, shouldn't we try to get the best from around the country to come here and make policy?" I don't necessarily disagree, but the best in the country when it comes to health policy and outcomes do not come from TEXASS. As Table 6 of this page from the Census Bureau will show you, Wisconsin was Number 3 in the nation in fewest percentage of people with no health insurance in the most recent survey, while TEXASS WAS DEAD LAST. Why should we ever be copying the people who have failed in taking care of their own?
Because that's what this Administration wants - to turn us into a corporately-owned two-tier society like the Lone Star State, instead of keeping Wisconsin as the high-quality, high-service place that we know and love. And the ultimate slap in the face came last night, when Walker announced he was turning down $37 million in federal assistance toward allowing Wisconsin to form their own Obamacare insurance exchange, and might need to send back another $1 million to the feds as a result of the move. In addition to being stupid fiscally, and remarkably similar to Walker's short-sighted refusal of high-speed rail money (which is now costing Wisconsin millions more), it also leaves Wisconsin wildly vulnerable to having no plan in place once 2013 and 2014 roll around, and will probably leave us with a system that doesn't fit the unique needs of a state that already does a good job in covering its citizens. (Edit: Turns out that it's actually, $49 million they're blowing, because it includes BadgerCare Plus improvements that Walker had previously supported. It really is just like the train screw-up, where it costs us more to get less.)
And the worst part of this turning down of Obamacare exchange money? The blatant hypocrisy from the Administration on the subject of health care competition. A common talking point from the Walker folks is how their school reforms allow districts to shop from competing health plans and save money (no matter how bullshit and deceptive their spin may be). OK, great idea as long as the insurance companies continue to offer a better package to districts and enrollees after the first year or two. But then why do they have such an issue with Obamacare health exchanges which do the same damn thing by offering choices for individuals and small businesses?
Because the Walker boys don't give a damn about health care outcomes of individuals and small businesses. They're all about 1. scoring political points on talk radio, so they'll use school district health plan competition as a way to bash WEA and teachers' unions, with any cost-savings being a very secondary positive, and 2. They want to push more potential clients onto the rolls of huge insurance companies and allow those companies to rack up even higher profits, with no intent of improvement for care, costs or outcomes for the average inidividual or business owner. THAT'S what these moves are all about - politics and decimating the Wisconsin health care safety net in favor of big-time blood money for the corporate insurer campaign contributors.
Now does it make sense that Walker was hitting up disgraced former AIG exec Hank Greenberg for cash on Park Avenue this week? Because both guys are all about profit at all measures, without regard for any effects or injury to others. It's sickening, and yet another reason why these people must be removed as soon as possible.