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New state health secretary on board with Walker Medicaid plan


MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - Wisconsin’s new health secretary says she’s on board with the reforms proposed by Governor Scott Walker.

Deputy Secretary Kitty Rhoades was promoted Friday to run the health agency, after Dennis Smith stepped down.

Smith – a former head of the U.S. Medicare and Medicaid agency – has overseen the governor’s reluctance to get Wisconsin on board with the Obama health reform package, the biggest parts of which are due to take effect in 2014.

Rhoades, a former Republican state representative from Hudson, issued a statement indicating that her agency will not change its course. In her words, “Wisconsin has been a leader in reforming our health care system – and with the governor’s innovative proposals, we will continue this tradition.”

Under Smith’s watch, Wisconsin has refused to tailor the new health insurance exchanges to its own needs, indicating that it would cost the state more in the long run. And he was on board with Walker’s plan to expand Medicaid for BadgerCare childless adults below the poverty line – while moving others into the new purchasing exchanges.

Smith said the changes would stabilize Medicaid for the most vulnerable who need it, while setting the program on a course toward sustaining itself.

State Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate said Smith was, “more interested in an extreme ideology than in advocating for the health and well-being of Wisconsinites.” And he said Rhoades has a chance to turn the page on what Tate called an “unprecedented assault on BadgerCare.”