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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

 11:39 AM 

Dems push support of SeniorCare as Senate confirms Smith

The Senate voted 25-8 today to confirm Dennis Smith as the secretary of Health Services as Dems questioned whether his selection was a sign Gov. Scott Walker is not committed to SeniorCare.

Minority Leader Mark Miller complained Smith had not made the rounds with Senate members to meet with them as has been the tradition so some lawmakers weren't sure on his positions. But he pointed to writings from Smith that he said raised questions about his commitment to Medicaid and charged he was part of a Bush administration attempt to quash SeniorCare and instead push Wisconsin seniors to Medicare part D.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton and a member of the Health Committee, said Smith was non-committal during a public hearing on his appointment about the future of SeniorCare.

"That should be troubling to us, not so much a reflection of Mr. Smith because that's what he believes. It's more a reflection of Gov. Walker," Erpenbach said. "I can't imagine Gov. Walker wants to take Wisconsin seniors down the road of uncertainty when it come to their drugs."

Health Chair Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, praised Smith as a highly qualified appointee

She also countered criticism of Smith's writings, saying he only argued in a paper that states would be better off withdrawing from Medicaid because they could save money while having more flexibility to serve residents. She also said Smith argued during his confirmation hearing that some residents would be better off under Medicare part D than on SeniorCare.

"As a body, we should confirm him and look forward to having him in the position to guide our state in these times," she said.


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