Prior to joining the Walker cabinet, Dennis Smith was a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, an extreme right-wing policy organization. While there he repeatedly attacked Medicaid and other medical assistance programs. For example, he advocated that states drop Medicaid. Smith also worked in the Department of Health and Human Services under George W. Bush. In that capacity Smith threatened to kill Wisconsin’s popular SeniorCare prescription drug program.
Recently I examined a full year-plus of Smith's official calendar and it seemed to verify his extreme nature on health policy agenda. For example I found him attending numerous right wing conventions and events:
- June 16, 2011 - June 17, 2011: San Diego meeting at Hotel del Coronado with policy sessions including "Privatization and Public/Private Partnership" and "a conversation with D. Rumsfeld"
- October 11, 2011: Phone meeting with the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee regarding health care exchanges.
- October 24, 2011 - October 25, 2011: Conference in Washington D.C. including sessions like "Medicaid Waivers, Innovative Reforms and Pilot Programs" and "What Medicaid Reform Should Look Like". One note in his calendar shows that the hotel was reserved by a Monica Block of the RGA.
- November 2, 2011: Another D.C. based conference including sessions such as "Saving the American Dream: The Heritage Foundation's Plan to Fix the Debt, Reduce Spending and Restore" and one that Smith may have presented entitled "State-Driven Medicaid Reforms."
Dennis Smith certainly had a great deal more meetings and appointments with right wing organizations and interests but one other thing stood out to me the most. On February 24, 2011 Smith had a phone meeting with the Lieutenant Governor of Kansas, Jeff Colyer. He had another phone meeting with him on November 18, 2011 regarding "MA [medical assistance] Reform".
These calls interest me because Colyer was tasked by extremist Kansas Governor Brownback to head an effort to totally turn their state Medicaid system on its head. In fact some are describing it as the outright privatization of their Medicaid program. Others protested the driving of thousands of developmentally disabled residents into managed care.
My obvious questions are as follows: Why was Dennis Smith talking to the Kansas Lt. Governor about medical assistance programs? Did he advise them on such a radical plan? Worse yet, is he consulting with them to try the same thing here in Wisconsin? Can we use Smith's calendar as a policy preview?