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Friday, December 30, 2011

Walker Chums For Support By Throwing Family Care To The Sharks

There's a lot of meat to Walker's announcement to lift the cap from Family Care. Of course the most suspicious was his bold-faced grandstanding of the decision as his own without mentioning that federal authorities two weeks ago told his administration it had to take that step. The announcement to lift the cap was met with general approval from democrats and advocates for the elderly and disabled who contend that Family Care is less costly than nursing homes.

But the story doesn't end there. Walker's supporters claim he intended on lifting the cap at some point in time. That's true, the day after Walker imposed the cap when he signed Act 10 into law, he spoke to the Journal Sentinel about possibly raising the cap or modifying it later in the year, but that means he was willing to punish elder folks simply because he was supposedly looking for efficiencies in the system to find extra money. In defense of Walker, his spokesman on Thursday said the governor had been planning to lift the cap for months, but that only adds to the callous nature and questionable intentions when he imposed the cap in the first place considering many on the waiting list are in their late 80s, 90s and even 100's. None of this of course changes the fact that Walker held a news conference announcing he's lifting the cap on Family Care while making no mention of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' ordering him to do so.

But now we get to the gristle. In order for Walker to take credit for lifting the cap from Family Care, he would have had to never propose $554 million in service cuts over the next year and a half in other Medicaid health care programs. It doesn't jibe with that. It also doesn't jibe because the announcement came less than a week after his administration announced separate planned cuts across state agencies totaling $123 million. Expanding the state’s long term care program sounds too good to be true, particularly coming from a governor who views long term care as an expensive entitlement.

For Walker to impose a cap with the full intention of eventually lifting it or expanding it also has the appearance of "stick and carrot" politics. This is where politicians take a strong position to wield as a stick, usually counter to popular demand, in order to drum up the old guard support base for a much larger ideologically driven agenda, like his class war budget Act 10. Later on, when needed either as a legislative bargaining chip or to shift public opinion, he presents the carrot - lifting the cap on Family Care. I would contend Walker might not have planned it this way from the beginning, but that he saw the carrot opportunity and used it to his advantage.

This scenario meshes well with the Democurmudgeon's angle where Walker has cornered the extremist fringe base in Robin Vos, who is now playing the worser to Scott Walker's worse - if anyone thought that was possible.

No matter what happens now, if the old "heart of stone" republican guard does not pass Walker's newly adopted Family Care plan, it would force a showdown with CMS. At that stage, even if Family Care was fully dismantled, Walker would still come out looking like the nice guy.

He's banking on it.

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