Sunday, April 22, 2018

Oh, NOW Scott Walker believes in helping Sconnies get health care, broadband?

This week, Governor Walker sent a waiver to the US Department of Health and Human Services to formally get approval for his plan to prop up insurers that have policies on the Obamacare exchanges. And just in time for the waiver submission, the Walker Administration claims that the reinsurance program, which was projected to cost $50 million in state dollars next year, will cut premiums AND not be as expensive for state taxpayers!
Absent federal action (to get rid of the ACA program we are now taking advantage of), Wisconsin’s Health Care Stability Plan creates a reinsurance program to cover costs in Wisconsin’s individual market. The program will provide $200 million in reinsurance funding. Under the program, Wisconsin estimates it will pay $34 million for reinsurance in 2019; the federal government will pay the remaining $166 million in “pass through” funds representing federal savings from the program. The program will provide coverage for claims between $50,000 and $250,000. The Wisconsin Health Care Stability Plan is estimated to pay 50 percent of those costs up to $200 million.

Upon federal approval of the 1332 waiver, Wisconsin estimates premiums will be reduced by 10.6 percent from levels that otherwise would have occurred, resulting in a 5 percent decrease in 2019 premiums, compared to 2018.
Two quick observations here.

1. Where's the proof of premiums going down? From what I can tell, Walker cites some study by an Administration-paid consultant, and it's accompanied by information that the Office of the Insurance Commissioner presented as part of this 1332 waiver. I have strong suspicions that the reason any premiums would drop is because people would choose plans with less coverage than they did before.

In addition, as Citizen Action has pointed out in the past, Walker's Insurance Commissioner won't use his power to force health insurance corporations to keep their premium hikes in check. Why would they start now? But again, I don't have the evidence that they used to make this claim (if there is any).

2. Oh, NOW Walker is cool with having the Feds cover more of the costs associated with ACA coverage? When the Feds would have paid 100% of expanded Medicaid for the past 5 years, Walker said it was too risky because one day expanded Medicaid might go away. But now that Walker faces the voters in November and that Obama isn't in the White House any more, all of a sudden getting the Feds to pick up the tab doesn't seem like such a bad deal in WalkerWorld.

How would the Feds pick up more of the tab? Here's what the OCI claims.
Waivers can be funded by “pass through dollars”
 If the federal government will save money it would have otherwise spent in subsidies absent the waiver, the state can use those “pass through dollars” to help fund
the program...

The plan creates a “reinsurance” program to cover costs in the individual market
 Reinsurance is insurance for insurance companies

 The program would provide coverage for claims between $50,000 and $250,000
 Under the program, the state would pay between 50% and 80% (likely between 50-60%) of those costs up to $200 million.
Basically, it would bail out companies that are on the ACA exchanges and have to pay high-cost claims. Because the ACA limits the amount of profit an insurance company can keep, the insurance companies then jack up the prices of premiums for everybody that gets insurance on the exchanges as their own version of insurance.

Now that the state would be backing this up, the theory (as I can figure it) is that premiums would be lower, and therefore the feds wouldn't need to pay as much in tax credits to low-income people that buy insurance on the exchanges so they'd give back a lot of these funds to Wisconsin as a "thank you".

Wouldn't Medicare/Badgercare for all make more sense at this point?

Seems like a lot of "ifs and hopes" to me, but because the money won't be spent until Fiscal Year 2019, it'll be unknown what the effect is until after the 2018 elections. Which is quite...convenient.

On a related note, where is Walker getting the information that asserts the Feds will continue to pick up more of the tab of this reinsurance plan? Given that Paul Ryan keeps making noise about "cutting entitlements" like Medicaid and and that Trump and the GOP Congress have sabotaged cost-sharing subsidies in the past, why would Walker assume there'd be more money coming from DC to bail state taxpayers out in this scheme? Especially as the US's budget deficit skyrockets under these stupid tax cuts?

The same reversal has happened on the subject of rural broadband, where Walker is trying to brag about putting in more money to expand this infrastructure, after keeping Wisconsin behind for years due to bad choices in the past.
Governor Scott Walker today announced the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) has awarded the largest round of Broadband Expansion Grants in state history with $7.68 million in total preliminary awards leveraged to $19,468,725 in private matching funds. 46 new grants have been awarded to extend high-speed internet access to as many as 1,600 business locations and 18,000 residential locations . The awards announced today are preliminary and will be finalized upon the issuance of the Commission’s written decision and the expiration of a 10-day appeal process. In addition, Governor Walker announced the opening of application process for next round of grants.

“Broadband has endless potential to help Wisconsin communities,” said Governor Walker. “Years ago, electricity revolutionized farming for my grandparents. Today broadband is revolutionizing education, health care, and business, and improving the quality of life for Wisconsin’s rural residents. With this historic round of Broadband Expansion Grants, we are another step closer to connecting every Wisconsin community.”

In this budget, Governor Walker increased total broadband investments by $35 million and created a permanent Broadband Expansion Grant program. Prior to today’s awards, the PSC has awarded 55 Broadband Expansion Grants totaling $5,452,000 since Governor Walker took office.
Ooooh, $7.68 million in reused USF fees to expand broadband in Wisconsin? Sounds great, until you realize that Walker turned down $23 million from the Obama Administration that would have done the same thing 7 years ago. And this time, it's Wisconsin ratepayers that are funding these expansions, instead of the Federal government.

Yes, it's nice to see broadband finally get expanded into areas of the state that needs it. But I give this Governor no credit for doing something he should have been doing from day 1, especially given that it was clearly done to spite the efforts of the Black Man that was in the White House. They tried to strike a pose against Obama to stir up the rubes and get attention from national interests, but those stunts hurt this state long-term, and they cannot be left off the hook for doing a scaled-down version of WHAT THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN DOING ALL ALONG.

Let's not forget that these pre-election moves are an admission by the Walker Administration that their previous strategy failed. And there's no reason to think these cynical sleazes will continue to go down the path of responsibility if the people of Wisconsin are foolish enough to keep them in power after 2018.

Instead, why not remove that uncertainty over what will follow (remember when Walker would claim "uncertainty" was an economic problem?), and get someone in who recognizes that federal spending should be used to help Wisconsinites, and not only be grabbed onto as a desperate pre-election ploy.


  1. I almost feel sorry for Scott Walker. ALMOST. According to his Grand Plan, he was supposed to be President of the United States right now. He was supposed to leave Wisconsin in the dust in 2016 and never look back.

    That didn’t happen, and now he’s stuck here, desperately trying to clean up the mess he made (or at least appear to be trying). The problem is, he has no idea how to actually govern a state. He only knows how to make promises and reward his benefactors.

    If the Democrats actually get their act together and defeat him in November, whatever will poor Mr. Walker do to support himself? He will be a fifty-something college dropout with no work experience outside of politics.

    And if he loses his job, wherever will he live? He sold his Wauwatosa house to pay off his presidential campaign debt, and is now living full-time in the Governor’s Mansion. Poor guy. I almost feel sorry for him. ALMOST.

    1. Completely agree, great comment.

      Walker knows he has about 5-7 years before people can't ignore the failures, incompetence, and corruption. Then he picks up and moves on to his next job with a bunch of voters who don't know better.

      It was all lined up until Scotty flamed out so badly in 2015, and then Trump won the White House the next year. As you noted, now Scotty is stuck.

      This also explains why Walker is flailing about so much, reversing his own policies and going on this tax cut-and-spend binge before the election. Because the prospect of actually working a real job terrifies him, and he knows that at least 48% of this state already hates him, and the casual voter is going to lean Dem in November (unlike 2010 and 2014, when they leaned GOP).

      So because Walker is a lifetime grifter that's never really cared about policy or improving people's lives, he's now following polls and trying to give what he thinks the people want, regardless of how that might blow up the budget or change what the state has been doing until then.

      It's transparent, and pathetic.

    2. As horrified as I was that Trump won the election, I knew there was a silver lining: the backlash could finally rid our state of Walker. It won’t be easy, though.

      As desperate and pathetic as he’s acting now, when election time rolls around he will be vicious. He won’t go down without a major fight. Whoever the Democrats nominate had better be ready for the battle of their life. Walker will have a ton of money and absolutely no scruples. This isn’t going to be pretty.

  2. This is why it's laughable to hear Walker claim GOPs need to be "positive and optimistic", because once the Dems candidate wins the primary in August. I expect Walker's campaign to be nothing but negative. Because they can't run on their record and win.

    Let me give another example of how these federal bailouts illustrate Walker's failures in governance. Senator Baldwin's office just announced that they got $55 million in federal funding to improve the unacceptable conditions at the Veterans Home at King. Let's see if Walker tries to take credit for fixing a problem THAT HE LET GO ON FOR 7 YEARS BY RAIDING MONEY TO FILL BUDGET HOLES.

    This is where the DPW and national Den groups must be relentless on reminding people of Walker's awful and negligent actions, while allowing the winning Guv candidate to say "We're better than this," and "I'll do what's best for THE PEOPLE of Wisconsin, and get it right the first time."