Monday, April 30, 2012

Governor uses "Walker Math" in errant claims on Medicaid

Misleading statements on spending shows Walker uses deceitful calculations

An ad I frequently see on my Hulu commercials involves Gov. Scott Walker making an ambitious claim that his administration increased spending on Medicaid by more than $1.2 billion. To be fair to Walker, when I'm watching any show on Hulu, it annoys me to great ends to see any kind of political advertizing, even Democratic ads that I may support.

But I digress. The claim isn't anything new -- the Walker administration has been touting it for over a year, stating that any criticism due to supposed cuts to Medicaid are wholly unwarranted.

However, Walker's claim here is a ruse. Rather than be truthful with the people about what really is occurring, the governor is playing games with the numbers, creating an image of himself that is inaccurate when broken down deeper.

Walker's common talking point, that "Madison Math" employed by critics is working against him, may have to be replaced with "Walker Math" -- that is, dubious and deceitful calculations made to make the governor appear credible.

Gov. Scott Walker misleads the public on Medicaid spending.Wisconsin did indeed raise its Medicaid spending this year from last, by the amount Gov. Walker is claiming. That "raise" in state revenues, however, is due mostly to the fact that last year, as part of the stimulus package that Barack Obama and Democrats passed early in the president's term, the federal government picked up a significant chunk of the tab in Medicaid expenditures due to the global economic recession (in 2009 alone, the federal share of Medicaid spending jumped by more than 50 percent).

With Medicaid claimant numbers continuing to rise but the stimulus funds ending in June last year, the state had to pick up its normal contribution to the program:
The biggest increase in funding by far, in percentage terms, is for health services. Most of this 45% increase is replacement funds for lost federal stimulus dollars. Those stimulus dollars for Medicaid, the heathcare program for the poor, ended in June. Rising enrollments for programs such as BadgerCare Plus also drive the increase.
But when the state picked up that tab, it didn't do so fully. The program called for Wisconsin to increase its share by $1.8 billion if it wished to operate at the "normal costs to continue" Medicaid services it had the year prior.

Yet, Walker & Co. only funded $1.2 billion in "additional" revenues, a significant decrease from what was recommended. Those additional revenues, again, make up for what the federal stimulus had previously picked up, what would have ordinarily been the state's responsibilities in the first place.

The outcomes from that drop will be monumental. For example, the shortfall here is wholly responsible for tens of thousands of citizens set to be removed from BadgerCare.

Calling any increase in expenditures on a budget item the state was responsible for beforehand is a misleading way of characterizing what happened with Medicaid in Wisconsin. Walker is claiming that the $1.2 billion he put in his budget was an original decision on his part, an increase he created and should be credited for.

In fact, it was just a portion of what the state had to contribute towards in order to keep up with operating costs for the Medicaid programs that were being funded. On that bill, Walker shorted Wisconsin hundreds of millions of dollars.

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