HuffPost's Amanda Terkel on the plans to slash Wisconsin's "Badgercare" Medicaid program. As I've said before, I believe this is part of a larger plan to undercut the use of the state programs as a safety net for the new national health care program:
WASHINGTON -- So far, most of the attention on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's (R) budget repair bill has focused on the section that would strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights. Less noticed is a provision in the 144-page piece of legislation that could dramatically change the state's Medicaid program.
The bill would grant the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) sweeping authority to making changes to the state's Medicaid program -- which covers one in five residents -- with virtually no public scrutiny. According to an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Walker's plan would use "emergency" powers to allow DHS to restrict eligibility, raise premiums and change reimbursements -- all moves traditionally controlled by the legislature.
Jon Peacock, research director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, equated it to if President Obama gave Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius total power to rewrite Medicare policy, even though it wouldn't save any money in the current fiscal year.
"That's what you have here in what's being proposed," said Peacock. "If President Obama proposed that, there would be rallies all over the country, and we would be marching out there arm in arm with Tea Party members, protesting against it."
"While the provision may result in significant savings in the future, it has been included on the list because it would remove the entire Legislature from determining substantial elements of the medical assistance program," concluded the fiscal bureau's analysis.
Part of the reason that advocates are so alarmed at the legislation is that the man who heads DHS is Dennis Smith, someone who has advocated for states to leave the Medicaid program.
In a December 2009 article for the Heritage Foundation, Smith, who was then on staff at the conservative think tank, advocated against health care reform proposals being considered by Congress and argued it would be smart for states to leave the Medicaid program.