Sunday, January 1, 2012

Walker Shows He CAN Do The Right Thing -- When He's Forced To Do It

While running for governor, Scott Walker regularly touted what a success Family Care was for Milwaukee County and how it helped get services to frail senior citizens who had been on waiting list for year. This was a rather perverse position for him to take since Milwaukee County's Department of Aging was one of the pilot programs in the state and started years before Walker weaseled his way in as county executive.

To add to his depravity, Walker actually tried to sabotage the program by laying off the CPAs who were overseeing the program to make sure there weren't costs overruns. Walker said that he laid those people off to save money. The end result of his money saving scheme was two years of massive deficits running into the millions of dollars.

But despite his continued praise of the Family Care program, as soon as he started wielding his budget ax around, one of the first things he did was put a two year cap on the program.

What this meant was that about 10,000 of our most vulnerable citizens were being denied services for no other reason than Walker wanted to do that. The only way that these poor souls were to get services would be if that someone already receiving services moved away, aged out or died. And if the denied disabled person happened to live in a county that had not transitioned to Family Care yet, they were completely screwed over.

Walker claims he did this as a cost saving measure, but the hard truth is that it actually ran up the bill faster for taxpayers:
Allowing an expansion of Family Care and related similar programs would lead to "quality services at a lower cost," said Terry Metzger, an executive with the Southwest Family Care Alliance. The savings figure in the study was a statewide projection based on actual costs for 28,000 Family Care clients from northeastern Wisconsin.

If the freeze is enacted, many people now on waiting lists for Family Care could wind up in nursing homes, said Barbara Beckert, Milwaukee office manager for Disability Rights Wisconsin. That would drive up state costs because nursing home care typically costs $5,000 a month or more. Average costs in Family Care are about $2,800 a month for care services provided at home.

Milwaukee County has at least 2,000 on its Family Care waiting list. Some of those would likely wind up at the county's Mental Health Complex, where acute care costs more than $1,300 a day, if program enrollments are frozen, Beckert said.
It was further reported that the state was already saving $90 million a year on the people already enrolled, which is almost the same amount Walker figured he would save by denying these people services.

Like I said, he only did it because he could.

Now let's fast forward to a couple of weeks ago.

Walker arranged one of his usual grandstanding press conferences to announce that they had suddenly found all sorts of savings and were now going to lift the cap on Family Care, at least eighteen months before he originally planned on doing so:
Earlier this year an enrollment cap was placed on Family Care in response to a Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) evaluation which found a number of areas the program could be improved and made more efficient. After a briefing on the hard work done by DHS over the past couple of months, today Governor Walker announced a plan to lift the Family Care cap. Governor Walker’s plan also calls for Family Care to be expanded to additional counties.

“I am confident that Family Care can continue to be implemented efficiently and cost effectively,” said Governor Walker. “Lifting the cap will be done in a way that respects taxpayers and is mindful of their investment, while at the same time providing care for those who are truly in need.”

The 2011-2013 state budget and the Legislative Audit Bureau required the Department of Health Services to do a thorough review of the program given its rapid growth. The LAB report released in April 2011 offered recommendations for improving the program. A very critical issue raised in the report was that the cost effectiveness of Family Care was difficult to assess. Because the Department was able to take the time to strengthen the program, Wisconsin now has the detailed data needed to develop solutions to ensure Family Care is on sound financial footing for those in the program now and for future enrollees.
Wowsa! What a great governor he is, right? Not in the least, actually.

You see, the thing is Walker didn't suddenly find any savings. What he did find was a scathing letter from the feds telling him he is in violation of their agreement and needed to cease and desist his malfeasance immediately:
Because the currently approved waiver includes and entitlement to waiver services, we are instructing the State to operate the waiver as it was approved by CMS. Therefore, we are directing the State to identify any individuals not currently enrolled onto the Family Care or Self-Directed Supports waivers since the July 1, 2011 implementation of the newly instituted enrollment caps, and immediately enroll those individuals in the waiver programs. This includes individuals living in any counties who had or would have had an entitlement to the waivers as of July 1, 2011, and includes individuals who were or would have otherwise been selected for enrollment from other participating counties.
There is no denying that Walker is a weasel and cannot be trusted to do the right thing unless he is literally forced to do so.

But his problems might not end there.

He made the grave error of embarrassing the media when he told his outright lie, knowing that they were going to most likely regurgitate it. But unlike when he was Milwaukee County Executive, and had the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel covering up for him, he is dealing with media sources that he doesn't have in his back pocket. That would explain why so many of the news stories regarding the Family Care issue starts like this one from the Green Bay Press Gazette:
Gov. Scott Walker failed to reveal that the federal government had ordered him to immediately lift an enrollment cap on a state program to help the disabled and elderly stay out of nursing homes, instead telling reporters that his administration removed restrictions after identifying tens of millions of dollars in efficiencies in the program.
The rest of the article focuses on Walker's lies instead of the positive spin he was hoping for.

Oh, and if any reporters out there that do happen to come across this little old blog post of mine, I'd be glad to help you catch up to speed on the other ways he has bamboozled you.

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