Tag Archives: privatize

Privatizing long-term care for profit

With the media focused on our crazy presidential campaign, it’s easy to overlook another disturbing power play by Gov. Scott Walker and his cronies here at home.

A year ago during the legislative budget session, GOP leaders proposed to dismantle Wisconsin’s highly rated long-term care system.

The proposal came as a shock to the state’s nonprofit managed care organizations — or MCOs. They’re the long-term care providers and personal care workers. No one bothered to consult the 55,000 elderly and disabled individuals who receive assistance from the programs or the family members who participate in their care.

Despite a mighty grassroots effort to defeat the proposal, the GOP voted for the changes anyway. Walker vetoed the item only because he disagreed about how to section off regions of the state to the advantage of for-profit insurance companies.

No bad ideas rest for long with the GOP leaders who control our state — especially not when their campaign contributors and cronies stand to benefit.

In late April, Walker and GOP legislative leaders announced again that they plan to shift the current system of eight regions overseen by nonprofit MCOs to three regions administered by national for-profit health insurance companies. They have the votes and the power to do whatever they want.

R.J. Pirlot, executive director of the Alliance for Health Insurers, is in quite a hurry. “The sooner the committee acts,” he said in a statement, “the sooner both service recipients and Wisconsin taxpayers will reap the benefits.”

Walker spokesman Tom Evenson is antsy, too. “We believe the sooner we can transition to improved services, the better off consumers and tax payers will be.”

Pardon my skepticism toward the newfound altruism of our one-party state. In the past few years, the GOP has slashed access to food stamps, rejected almost $1 billion in federal Medicaid funds for the poor, and defunded and forced the closure of Planned Parenthood clinics.

Walker and GOP Rep. John Nygren claim that turning the long-term care system over to the private sector will save the state $300 million over the next six years.

That sounds good, but expanding caseloads and payouts to insurance company shareholders over those years can only result in cuts to services for our most vulnerable citizens.

The non-partisan Legislative Reference Bureau has issued several reports showing that our current long-term care system is efficient and has saved money. Its emphasis on providing home and community services reduced the number of Medicaid-covered individuals in nursing homes by 10,811 between 2002 and 2011.

The state Department of Health Services has issued data on the positive health outcomes and high rates of satisfaction among individuals receiving care in their communities. Sudden changes in providers or services will surely be upsetting to elderly and disabled recipients.

I know many dedicated people who worked hard over almost 20 years to gather input, plan and reform our long-term care system into what it is today. It was painstaking work, taking the views of disabled people, their families, caregiving agencies, health care providers, county and state agencies and legislators into account.

It is a travesty of justice that this model of consensus and consumer-directed service can be dismantled in just one month by those whose only concern is providing more profits for wealthy corporations.

Starving the Wisconsin prison system

As the wife of a Wisconsin correctional officer, I’d like to thank all of the DOC employees who continue to show their professionalism by showing up for work, tirelessly, despite their dismal treatment by department Secretary Ed Wall.

Wall has built a house of cards, with 10,000-plus people relying on it for shelter. Under Wall, vacancies in the staff of state prisons have quintupled.

There were 88 vacancies when he accepted his appointment. Today, there are more than 500. Wall, who has never worked one day within the confines of a correctional facility, continues to shoot from the hip managing his staff. He continues to implement policies that are destined to fail, policies that he knows will create more vacancies because of his mistreatment of staff. There is zero accountability because nobody oversees the secretary.

Use common sense when asking yourself, what is the ultimate goal? The answer: privatization. The vacancies within the DOC are staggering enough to shut down activities in the prisons and create mandatory overtime, all at extra cost to taxpayers. Gov. Scott Walker has long lobbied for privatization and Wall is the tool he’s using to accomplish his goal.

As a career politician, Walker made it no secret that he supported private prisons. Corrections Corporation of America has been one of the major contributors to his political career. Walker was instrumental in the legislation that authorized sending prisoners out of state in the 1990s and early 2000s, when he headed the Committee on Corrections. He sent roughly 5,000 inmates to different states, at a cost of $45 million to Wisconsin taxpayers. When they returned to Wisconsin, they came back with PlayStations, Xboxes and — among other things — pornography. All of these were allowed by the corrections facilities. We no longer send inmates out to other states for a reason — it did not work.

Research has proven that private prisons are plagued with lack of security, falsifying records to cover up understaffing problems (much like we are experiencing now), prisoner abuse, staff assaults and riots. They ultimately cost the taxpayers more money than state-run prisons.

In 2010, three inmates escaped from a private prison in Arizona, kidnapped two tourists and burned their bodies in their own camper. State investigators found the perimeter of the prison was left unmonitored for 15 minutes at the beginning of every shift, with only one person responsible for monitoring the perimeter at the time of escape. So many false alarms went off that staff in the prisons ignored them and one-third of the security staff had less than three months on the job — with zero training.

Yet Walker lobbied for privatization anyhow. Even then Gov. Tommy Thompson did not approve of Walker’s plan and each time Walker introduced legislation to privatize prisons, it failed.

When giving thanks this season, please remember to thank your state employees who, in spite of dismal treatment, continue to show up for workday after day because they know your public safety falls squarely on their shoulders.

Christine Ewerdt is a resident of Waupun.

Poll: Veterans reject Koch brother’s push to privatize VA health care

A poll released just before Veterans Day shows veterans don’t support the push by Concerned Veterans for America, a Koch brothers front group, to private the VA health care.

CVA is pressing the Republican candidates for president to take up its call to replace the VA health care system with a voucher system.

The poll released on Nov. 10 and published in the Military Times shows two-thirds of veterans surveyed oppose a voucher system.

The poll also showed that 57 percent of veterans surveyed would be less likely to support a candidate who backed “privatizing the VA health care system.”

The poll was conducted for Vet Voice Foundation by Lake Research Partners and Chesapeake Beach Consulting, with a goal of having bipartisan results.

The survey found a majority of veterans opposed to privatization, regardless of party, age, or branch of military.

Petition targets Walton Foundation push to privatize schools

Labor and education. Both were on the minds of Americans with the three-day holiday weekend that commemorates Labor Day and signifies the end of summer and the start of a new school year.

So the AFL-CIO figured it was a great time to take on the push by Wal-Mart’s owners to privatize — or corporatize — U.S. education.

In late August, Elizabeth Bunn, director of organizing for the AFL-CIO, urged labor advocates to sign a petition at aflcio.org to “keep Wal-Mart out of our classrooms,” and she wasn’t referring to the school supplies purchased for students at the discount store.

“Back to school isn’t the most fun time of year, but it is especially hard for teachers and students when you have billionaire families like the Wal-Mart-owning Waltons gearing up to use their billions to attack public education and shift much-needed resources to for-profit corporate schools,” Bunn said, appealing for petition signatures. “The Waltons have spent more than $1 billion on their corporate-style education scheme that’s opposed commonsense proposals like giving all kids access to free public pre-K education.”

The concern of the AFL-CIO and many progressive groups is that the Walton family is investing heavily in creating charter schools, promoting voucher systems that transfer taxpayer dollars to private schools, pushing policies drafted through the American Legislative Exchange Council and funding campaigns for conservative candidates from local school boards to the governor’s mansion.

Several years ago, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism documented the influence of Wal-Mart heirs on the 2010 election — six members of the family, none of them residents of the state, were among the top 10 individual contributors to winning state legislative candidates as Republicans took control of the government.

After taking office, Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP majority cut public school funding by $800 million over two years, allocated $17 million over two years to voucher programs and rolled back collective bargaining rights for public union employees.

Estimates suggest that since 2000, the Walton Family Foundation has put about $1 billion into initiatives that promote a corporate-friendly model of education, making Wal-Mart the largest funder of charter schools in the nation. 

The foundation, in 2013, invested millions to mold education policy — money went to the Black Alliance for Educational Options, the right-wing Alliance for School Choice, the New Teacher Project and Parent Revolution Inc., according to Inside Philanthropy — and to shape studies that endorse charter school programs.

Progressives’ worry is that the Walton Foundation’s efforts to privatize education are as threatening to public schools as Wal-Mart’s retail stores are to local businesses and Wal-Mart’s personnel policies are to the economic security of its employees.

Numerous studies show that expanding charter schools and school choice increases segregation — by race, ethnicity and income — and jeopardizes the stability of traditional public schools.

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