Tuesday, July 19, 2011

DHS Secretary Smith's "Good" 180 on Public Health Funding

After intense pressure on the Department of Health Services, Secretary Dennis Smith has changed his mind, and will now support the City of Milwaukee and other applicants as they apply for over $30 million in public health federal grants. The prevention grants were initially deemed "duplicative" and a "waste of taxpayer money." Sound familiar? See "Commissioner of Insurance's 'Bad' 180" below. The grant proposals are targeting smoking and obesity while promoting healthier lifestyles.
DHS Budget Summary
On July 8, 2011, Wisconsin's Department of Health Services posted a summary of the "Major Provisions for DHS" in the state's new biennial budget in the form of a PowerPoint presentation.  The slides begin with an overview of the budget process, from submission of the agency's request through the Governor's partial vetos and signature. The following sampling of slides provides an overview of the major policy provisions addressed in the budget while giving a sense of the justifications accompanying the changes:
  • Slide 5: Authority granted to DHS to reform Medicaid and BadgerCare Plus (called "implementing efficiencies" on the slide)
  • Slide 5: Eliminate maintenance of effort requirements:
    • DHS is to request a waiver of maintenance of effort requirements.
    • "If waiver is not granted by January 1, 2012, DHS must 'comply' with federal requirements under ACA and instead end enrollment for non-disabled, non pregnant adults above 133% of the federal poverty level."
  • Slide 13: Reform Income Maintenance
    • Counties will form up to 10 consortia
    • Counties will contribute county funds to consortia at least CY 09 levels.
    • DHS will issue contracts based on caseload
    • DHS will operate a statewide document processing center
  • Slide 16: End Family Planning Only Services for Men
    • Directs DHS to apply for federal waiver to continue coverage for women.
Stay tuned for future editions of the HealthWatch Update and HealthWatch Reporter where the DHS PowerPoint presentation will be broken down and discussed in more detail.

Commissioner of Insurance's "Bad" 180 on Consumer Assistance

On July 14, Public Interest Law Firm ABC for Health, Inc. (ABC) filed a supporting brief related to a claim for $176,250 plus expenses against the Wisconsin Commissioner of Insurance Ted Nickel. The claim arises from the termination of the Consumer Assistance Grant contract between the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) and ABC. Also mentioned in the claim filed with the State Claims Board, are Deputy Commissioner of Insurance Dan Schwartzer, Department of Health Services Secretary Dennis Smith, Deputy Secretary Kitty Rhoades, and Governor Walker’s Deputy Chief of Staff Eric Schutt.
The brief claims that newly appointed Commissioner Ted Nickel and his Deputy Dan Schwartzer’s decision to terminate a carefully crafted and unduplicated consumer assistance program that included ABC was unlawful and inequitable. Bobby Peterson, Public Interest Lawyer at ABC, said, “Commissioner Nickel thoughtlessly terminated a promising program to help consumers navigate the maze of health insurance. In January 2011, OCI recklessly pivoted 180 degrees and shunned opportunities to support consumer assistance and instead pandered to the insurance industry and a mean spirited political ideology that is out of step with the people of Wisconsin.”
Read the full press release here.
Read the brief and attached exhibits online.

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