Sunday, September 4, 2016

Arkansas's new Medicaid expert's past as Obamacare foe

Posted By on Sun, Sep 4, 2016 at 7:59 AM

click to enlarge DENNIS SMITH
  • DENNIS SMITH
The news of Arkansas's decision to bring in Dennis Smith, a former top Medicaid official for George W. Bush, included mention of the controversy that marked his tenure as the Medicaid boss for Wisconsin's Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

That time included media attention to the question of whether Smith had had an affair with a top aide, a matter that exploded into headlines because the woman's husband was charged with attempting to kill her by dousing her with gasoline and setting her on fire. Smith and the woman denied the affair, though a judge in the criminal case said the evidence was persuasive .

In any case, Smith is in Arkansas to oversee Medicaid, which happens to include a adoption of the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, albeit with Arkansas-specific framework. Smith made his bones as an ardent foe of Obamacare, which makes his new context at least somewhat interesting.

Quotable is this article from Wisconsin in 2013 on Smith's policy work in the context of the outcome of the criminal case (a reduced charge against the husband.) He left for a Washington job shortly after a job pronounced his belief that an affair had occurred.

This entire controversy brought an abrupt end to Smith’s role as an attack dog against Obamacare for Walker, supporting the rhetoric of Karl Rove and the Republican party on this issue. Smith had a strong connection to the Bush administration, having served as the head of the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services under Secretary Tommy Thompson and his successor as Secretary, Michael Leavitt. Smith was a key guy “at the table” under both secretaries, Leavitt has written.

After Democrats took over the White House in 2008, Smith became an activist for the Heritage Foundation on health care, writing a piece urging states to drop out of Medicaid. He became a high profile hire for Walker, who brought Smith on in January 2011 as Health Services Secretary. Smith quickly became the point man for Walker in resisting Obamacare in Wisconsin, and was known nationally as a state official who could be depended on to criticize Obamacare.
Here's the link to an article Smith wrote urging states to drop out of Medicaid. Is the past prologue?

It certainly seems likely he retains his view that the feds shouldn't tell states how to spend their Medicaid money, even if it is mostly from the federal government.

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