Monday, October 1, 2012

Walker Escalates His Attack On State's Most Vulnerable Citizens

Scott Walker, like any other Koch-head Republican, has a long history of attacking the more vulnerable citizens in order to further his political agenda and ideology.

Even has he does his weaselspeak about cutting taxes, the truth is he is raising them, most often on the poorest of the poor.

When he says he's cut spending, he really hasn't, but he just shifted it from the poor who are dependent on Badger Care and giving it to his wealthy corporate sponsors. So what if state spending is up and tens of thousands of single mothers and their children are left without health care coverage. A tax break for some major corporation is much more important than anyone's life, right?!

Walker feels free to attack these people because they are poor. They don't have the wherewithal to flood the airwaves with ads exposing the truth. And even if they did, they still would be no match for the billions of dollars Walker's supporters would spend to disparage and smear them. For proof, just look at the vulgar way these elitist, pompous asses are treating people that need government subsidized phones to help them find work or keep them and their families safe in cases of emergencies.

Among Walker's favorite targets are the disabled and the frail elderly.

Almost everyone in this population group is on SSI benefits which means they usually get less than $800 a month to live off of. After paying room and board, copays and personal hygiene products, they're lucky to have to dimes to rub together. On top of that, the law forbids them to have more than $2,000 at any given time. If they go over that, they could lose their benefits.

As you can imagine, with no money, it's hard to have one's voice heard.

Furthermore, many disabled adults are non-verbal and/or cognitively delayed or have some other condition that would make it impossible or very difficult for them to even speak in the first place.

Walker's attacks on these vulnerable citizens have been occurring for a long time. As Milwaukee County Executive, he would try to cut the services to these vulnerable adults. Walker's callousness had been noted at the time in which he got caught up in a lie saying that other services were available when there was none.

Even his staff, who were running a political website as I reported on in the Introduction to Walkergate, were equally heartless when they would taunt the disabled by comparing a rally for them to a teahadist rally when they were still popular.

When Walker became governor and hired Dennis Smith to head up Human and Health Services, it sent a feeling of dread across the state. Smith already had a notoriety for screwing more than other men's wives. He was also known for screwing the poor by cutting Medicare and Medicaid with heartless abandon.

So when Walker came out with his first budget, it was no surprise that among the other Medicaid cuts, Walker wanted to place caps on Family Care, a Medicaid-waiver based program that allowed disabled adults and the frail elderly to remain in the community instead of being housed in the much more expensive institutions.

Fortunately, the Feds stepped in and told Walker that his caps were illegal and he needed to lift them. This caused a mild furor when Walker lied to the press and tried to paint the lifting of the caps due to his "budgetary prowess" instead of his mean-spiritedness crossing the line.

Showing his utter lack of scruples, Walker doubled down on the lies a few days later. Five days after that, he admitted what the left and advocates for the vulnerable people were saying all along - Family Care actually saves tax payers money while promoting independence for these vulnerable people.

By now, I'm sure the gentle reader has an idea that Walker has utter contempt and disdain for these vulnerable citizens and feels that they are only good for being political pawns.

Given that history, one can imagine the red flags that popped up when I saw that Smith was claiming to find that the Medicaid deficit was $27 million less than previous reported (and what the hell happened to Walker's supposedly balanced budget?!). Especially when one sees where Smith claimed the savings came from (emphasis mine):
Smith attributed the decrease to $27 million the state received from the federal government for retroactive service claims. He also noted that fewer people than anticipated have joined the state's Family Care program since the Legislature lifted an enrollment cap in April. The Family Care program is designed to keep disabled and elderly people out of costly nursing homes.
It actually be more accurate to say that fewer people than anticipated had been allowed to join or even stay in the program.

Walker has slowly been tightening the qualifications for people to be eligible for the program, making it harder for them to get enrolled. Furthermore, Walker is cutting not only the services that the people can receive, but the quality of the services as well.

One of the ways that Walker is doing this is a version of bait and switch. He lures managed care organizations in with generous contracts, who in turn subcontract the actual hands on care to other agencies based on that contract.

But then suddenly Walker claims a financial crisis and sharply cuts the funding to the managed care organization. The organization then cuts what it's paying to the provider, who has to cut corners and, ultimately, it is the vulnerable client that suffers.

Sometimes the cuts are so severe that the managed care organization decides to fold then to go underwater. An example of that is going on right now in western Wisconsin (again, emphasis mine):
Eau Claire-based long-term care provider Community Health Partnership will close at the end of the year, as its contract with the state Department of Health Services is set to expire.

CHP has had a five-year contract with the state to provide long-term care services to low-income elderly and disabled people in Chippewa, Eau Claire, Dunn, St. Croix and Pierce counties.

The two programs offered by CHP to the state DHS are Family Care, which offers assistance for individuals with functional challenges, and Partnership, which provides both functional and medical services to elderly and disabled individuals. The programs services about 2,700 people in the region, who were notified of the change by a letter from the state DHS.

CHP released a statement Tuesday saying that the agency informed state officials in July that it was not financially viable for CHP to continue offering the Family Care program.

“In early August, CHP received a letter from ... (DHS Secretary) Dennis Smith, stating that they interpreted (CHP’s) follow-up email as a notice that CHP did not want to participate in the Family Care program going forward,” the statement said.

“The letter ... also stated that this would also mean CHP’s operation of the Partnership program would end as of Jan. 1, 2013.”

Because those two programs are the only ones offered by CHP, the agency will close after the contract expires at the end of December. CHP currently employs about 360 people, and has locations in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Menomonie and River Falls.
Jake has a good summary of what this means in real life terms:
It makes you wonder if some of this is related to the Walker Administration's jerking around of the Family Care program, which started by having Walker and Smith's DHS limit enrollment in the popular program to cut expenses, and led to the fiasco last December where Walker lied to reporters about his reasons for removng the cap (Remember when Scotty said he was doing it because it was the right thing to do when it turned out the Obama Administration told them to do it or else they'd lose millions in federal funds? Yeah, that screw-up).

Another part of that handling of Family Care involves payments to providers, and Walker and Smith have claimed that they will be able to reach millions in cuts through various "administrative measures." Well, I have little doubt that those administrative measures helped lead to CHP saying that it couldn't go on with the measly amount of money the state was paying it. So it ends up going out of business, leaving 2,700 people in the lurch in places such as Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls, Menomonie, and River Falls.

Now the state plans to run a competitive bid for these services and should be able to find some providers to continue to allow Family Care recipients to continue to get services, and some of those 360 people currently working at CHP will no doubt continue working for the new provider with a similar job. But there's no promise that the costs won't be higher, along with some painful transitions as the new providers go into place around January 1...and that's if the new vendor is competent and everything goes well in the changeover (which is not a guarantee in these situations).

However, this disruption of services for people in Western Wisconsin doesn't mean much to Scott Walker and Dennis Smith, they just care about the bottom line and the ability to pose behind an allegedly "balanced" budget. And if thousands of Family Care recipients and their families are damaged in the process and the value of services goes down, that's just collateral damage in the bigger picture of advancing right-wing ideology over results.
I am fully aware that some of my conservative readers (and trolls) are muttering to themselves things to the effect of how it serves those moochers right and those disabled adults and frail elderly should just pull themselves up by the bootstraps and get a job and pay their taxes just like everyone else. They don't really give a damn about the fate of these vulnerable people, just as long as their taxes don't go up or at least not so much that they have to go through cognitive dissonance with their support of Walker.

(Yes, some of these right wing ideologues actually think like that.)

But the thing is, Walker's stunts aren't even saving taxpayers any money.

Milwaukee County was in the middle of transitioning to Family Care when Walker, who had bragged about the program as a candidate, threw it under the proverbial bus as soon as he was governor. As part of the deal with the Feds, Milwaukee County had to finish the work according to the original timeline, even though Walker's stunt caused a nine month delay and the waiting list to grow.

To meet that Herculean task, the county has now had to pay out a bundle on overtime and hire back several retirees through a temp agencies. In other words, the county is now paying from one and a half times to two times the amount that they normally would if it weren't for the delays.

There is one story that encapsulates all of which I mentioned above. From the Columbus Journal:
About a month ago, Neuman said he got a call from Infinite Ability about rates being “drastically cut as much as 75 percent.” Several calls to Infinite Ability were not returned.

Neuman heard about the class-action suit and contacted Pledl.

Donald is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which details cuts made in the payment rates for residential services and alleges the cuts force housing providers to discharge the people developmental disabilities.

According to the complaint, rates to local providers have decreased, like Donald’s under the managed care organization Care Wisconsin. His new daily rate is $199.19, which is too low for local providers to maintain his care at the home. Based on the new rate, Donald will be moved to the larger adult family home to continue services and reduce costs.

Moving to another group home will be disruptive and traumatic, the complaint says. The complaint says it is likely that his behaviors and medical condition will worsen without the level of care he now receives and he will then require care in an institution or other more restrictive setting.

By October, Donald’s daily rate is expected to be $131.72, at which point, Infinite Ability will have to issue a discharge notice, according to the complaint. Donald’s day services programming is also through Infinite Ability, so that could be in jeopardy, too.

“It’s such a nice thing because all the clients are socializing. I didn’t think my dad would be able to read again and now he reads the newspaper to the other clients,” Neuman said.

Pledl’s lawsuit cites the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, which defines discrimination on the basis of disability — or, in this case, targeting a specific disability group for rate cuts — as unlawful.

“The class action primarily addresses residential rates, but issues that affect them include day services, employment and transportation. If people don’t go to day programming, they’ll be at home and that will increase the cost for residential providers. If residential providers have to supply transportation that increases their costs. All of those problems involve shifting costs to residential providers,” Pledl said. 
There are 300 to 400 people in Columbia County who are clients of Family Care, according to Joe Fortmann, director of the Aging and Disability Resource Center and of the county’s Commission on Aging. The county joined with the MCO in 2008.
In summary, Walker is again launching a cold, heartless and pointless attack on our state's most vulnerable citizens. However, like all things that Walker does, this will end up backfiring. The end result will be a lot of disabled and/or frail elderly people and their families going through hell needlessly, and then the taxpayers getting socked to clean up Walker's mess.

Even as this is happening, Walker will falsely claim he is some sort of fiscal conservative and his supporters and the corporate media will accept it unquestioningly.

The only way to make sure that he is unable to create more damage to these innocent people who already have enough to contend with - as well as other atrocities like right to work for next to nothing legislation or giving the mining companies another crack at crafting their own laws - is to take away the support he has in the legislature. Just as we did with the recalls, we have to go out, hit the streets, make the phone calls, talk to everyone we meet, and get out the vote. If you don't want to do it for yourself, do it for the vulnerable citizens that can't do it for themselves.


  1. Thank you Capper -- what an excellent post.

    The only thing it's missing is the connection to the national level, to the GOP agenda to slash and block-grant Medicaid (or, in the words of Tommy Thompson, "do away with Medicaid and Medicare.")

    They use the term "flexibility" repeatedly, how magnificent the cost-savings will be if we just leave it up to the states.

    Well, Walker and Smith are acting as if they already have that "flexibility" and you outline so well what's happening here. We're just lucky that there were still federal strings to pull on the Family Care Medicaid money, or those enrollment caps would still be in place. And the lawsuit depends on federal law as well... gosh darn that inflexible Americans with Disabilities Act, and all that.

  2. Thanks, Capper, for going into the detail so sadly lacking in the corporate media. For people to make reasoned choices in the voting booth, they must be informed and educated about their choices. You can make a safe bet that there are many among the more independant voter mindset that really regret casting their vote for Scott Walker in November 2010.
    Of course, you also must consider that Walker's real agenda that he tried to force on people had little relation to what he campaigned on leading up to the 2010 election.
    The true Walker agenda is very idealogical, the same ideology that guides his biggest backers. The Beloit witch that asks Walker on camera to make Wisconsin a red right-to-work state. The Koch Brothers and their lobbying office three blocks away from the Capital. The Bradley Foundation's Michael Grebe managing the Walker campaign, then heading the transition team (naming the Administration people Walker should appoint to follow the Walker agenda). The Bradleys, the Kochs, the Beloit lady, all follow the same ideology--economic and financial libertarianism. That's what was the basis for the Kochs to organize this top-down effort that became the "Tea Party."
    Starve the existing Government of sources of tax revenue; tear Government down to size, control it by privatizing it; no new or raised taxes: Austerity.
    And the money used to formerly pay for services to support the vulnerable among us--instead flows into the pockets of the wealthy elitists.

  3. Walker and his ilk like to kick around the most vulnerable people in our society because it makes the "little man" inside them feel powerful. It's the classic case of the sociopathic bully complex.

  4. I didn't read this post. I'm sure it was very nice. However. I want you to write a post about the Eliz. Warren thing. Not Jeff, you. I want you to get the point out there that the surface issues on this are not the problem. And the more Warren argues within the framework as it is set-up, the more damage she does, albeit unwittingly.
    I refuse to enter the stench-filled locker room that blogging has become, so no, I'm not gonna blog this myself.
    Underlying the whole "did Warren get special treatment because she's Native" is the premise that Native Americans by their nature get handouts, free-rides, preferential treatment etc etc. IT IS MASSIVELY RACIST. The more Warren argues about when and where she put "native American" on her applications etc the more she validates the idea that being native translates to special favors. It's just embedding that idea further and further in to the psyche of this discussion and the "white" frame of reference. That's she's not hot under the collar over this suggests that while she may indeed have Native genetics, she does not identify very deeply as native. In addition, the very idea that if you are say. 10% black, you put "Black" as your race, or even if you are 50/50 white and non-white, that the however small percentage of non-Whiteness dominates is a concept of "taint". Impurity. Why is Obama not white? Why is he the "first African-American president"? The issue of "taint" is insidious and pervasive. We don't even recognize it when it occurs.
    But, Eliz Warren's "preferential treatment" could not have occurred UNLESS everyone accepts the paradigm that Natives All Get Fast-tracked, and when they become professors and lawyers, it is not on their own merit but because the Administration needed to "inflate the minority roles" to appease a Politically Correct, Integration-Forcing Big Socialist Government, and NOT on their own merits. The suggestion that native Americans can not attain this level of success in the "white world" unless due to gov't doled charity underlies this entire issue. It is a horrifying indication of the persistence of the demon of racial purity in America today. it should not go un-noticed.
    The Smart Anonymous