First do no harm (to your donors' pockets)
I'd ask how Scott Walker sleeps at night, given all of the ways in which he's seeking to royally screw the regular working people of Wisconsin, but then I think I already know the answer: Soundly, smugly, and likely while plugged into a recording of someone speaking with whatever accent makes you pronounce "time" as "toime."
There are a few important points I'd like to touch on in terms of what Walker's doing to make life harder for most of us while stuffing as much cash into the pockets of his donors and friends. Today, we'll start with one.
Walker appointed a vocal critic of Medicaid and health reform in general to head up the state's Department of Health Services. Dennis Smith had previously been a member of conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, where he spent time writing several essays urging states to drop Medicaid entirely and oppose Obama's reform legislation, among other things.
One can only assume that Smith has played an active role in helping to craft Walker's budget repair plan for essentially crippling the state's health care system. Both the bill and Smith are touting the idea of forcing people on Medicaid to "pay co-payments and premiums and increase the fees for those who already do."
While Walker's plan would also like to see the 91,000 elderly folks currently enrolled in SeniorCare required to get their prescription medication through Medicare Part D, Smith has apparently cottoned to the political firestorm such a move would create.
Medicare Part D, created by George W. Bush in 2003 and effective as of 2006, was pitched as a way to "subsidize the costs of prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries in the United States." However, the program forbids the federal government from negotiating prices of drugs with the drug companies, something that has led to skyrocketing costs. While this doesn't always directly affect patients, it's serving to fill the coffers of the pharmaceutical and insurance companies who are being paid the increased amounts by the federal government.
For instance, the Department of Veterans Affairs is still allowed to negotiate for prices; as a result, they pay an average of 58% less for drugs than Medicare Part D. I have a friend who takes betaseron for her MS, and says that after she was switched over to the Part D program it went from costing around $1,000 a month to just over $3,000.
This doesn't save the federal (or state) government money by any stretch of the imagination, but it sure does make the drug companies happy. And that appears to be exactly what Walker -- and Smith, though he's being slightly more circumspect about it -- would like to do.
Unsurprisingly, this is just payback. According to an analysis of IRS and Wisconsin Campaign Finance Information System records conducted by One Wisconsin Now, "companies which currently administer Medicare Part D prescription drug plans in Wisconsin have donated in last several years $1.3 million to the campaigns of Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican Governors Association, which spent $5 million to elect Walker in 2010.""
Never mind the fact that thousands of vulnerable people could be kicked off the rolls entirely under Walker's plan, or made to pay incredibly burdensome amounts toward their care -- to the point that many would be unlikely to afford the care at all.
Smith's desire to see patients contributing more in terms of co-pays and premiums would mean just that. Premiums for Medicaid and Medicare can run a person a few hundred bucks a month, which when you're already on limited income, as many patients are, is a substantial chunk.
It could mean the choice between eating or heating or paying rent, and getting the care you need to, y'know, live. Meanwhile, no one seems to be addressing the real problems with health care in this country -- specifically, that it's an utter mess.
None of that really seems to matter to the people currently in charge, however. Just so long as they continue to pass fat kick-backs between themselves, they won't be losing any sleep.
I've been just one of many, many people passing around the link to this fantastic opinion piece by UW Professor William Cronon, but if you still haven't read it, do yourself a favor and get on it: "Wisconsin's Radical Break."
Would Scott Walker's anti-union budget repair bill pass a second vote? Probably not. A great catch by both "karoli" and Greta Van Susteren, the latter actually pressing Scott Fitzgerald to admit why he doesn't just give the proper 24-hour notice and re-do the vote: "...you may have the votes on one day and then you don't on the next."
Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (the now-infamous lobbying group behind the dirty, but successful Gableman and Zeigler campaigns, among other things) would like you to help them smash unions and regular working people in Wisconsin by reelecting Justice David Prosser. And hey! Corporate contributions are "unlimited and undisclosed," don't you know?