It is important to know which companies [e.g., Pacur] fail to provide coverage for some or all of their employees and instead rely on the government to cover these costs.Yesterday Scott Suder, a Republican member of the Wisconsin Assembly, threw a conniption when he learned the State's Department of Health Services publishes partial summaries of the number of employees (and their dependents) at Wisconsin companies who are recipients of the medical assistance program known as BadgerCare.
— Karen Timberlake, Dept. of Health Services Secretary
Claiming to be unconnected with the Ron Johnson for Senate campaign, Rep. Suder fired off a press release charging everyone from several local reporters to U.S. Senator Russ Feingold to Governor Jim Doyle with unlawful shenanigans. "Russ Feingold is so desperate that it appears Jim Doyle has to break the law in order to disparage an Oshkosh businessman," Suder said, and then, upping the ante, "This time they have gone too far by violating the law."
But it might appear that Rep. Suder's tactic has backfired.
This morning the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that Rep. Suder has already received a reply from Karen Timberlake, the department secretary, from whom Suder demanded an explanation.
Timberlake's response could well drive Suder even wilder:
In her letter to Suder, Timberlake said the department "provides such information because it is important for taxpayers to know which companies fail to provide coverage for some or all of their employees and instead rely on the government to cover these costs."And among those would be none other than Fox News/Republican candidate Ron Johnson, who is "relying on the government" to cover the cost of his own employees' health care benefits, the same Ron Johnson who has repeatedly called government-administered health insurance "the greatest assault on [his] Freedom in [his] lifetime."*
Suder pointed to a DHS administrative rule that refers to "safeguarded information" relating to BadgerCare that may not be distributed as including "past or present employment."
However, the administrative restriction applies to "individual applicant[s] or recipient[s]," none of whom are individually named in any of the summary documents published at the department's website or by the various news outlets that ran the original story (Lisa Kaiser at the Shepherd Express was the first, after which the Journal-Sentinel and the Associated Press picked up and went with it).
Perhaps Rep. Suder could successfully argue that releasing the employment information itself reveals the identities of individual applicants or recipients, in which case the Department of Health Services has been violating the administrative rule for several years.
Maybe we'll find out soon enough whether he'll try or not. It's not hard to read Timberlake's reply as at least mildly politically charged and if Suder was that excitable yesterday, he may be fit to be tied today.
* In fact he claims it — and Dick Morris — as his primary motivation.