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Wisconsin's health secretary Smith resigns; Rhoades named as successor


MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - Wisconsin’s health secretary has resigned to take what he calls a “tremendous opportunity in the private sector” starting next month.

Dennis Smith quit as of Thursday, and his deputy secretary – former Assembly Republican Kitty Rhoades – will become the new secretary.

Governor’s spokesman Cullen Werwie said Smith was not asked to resign, amid a controversy over Scott Walker’s health care agenda that Smith oversaw. Werwie also said Smith would have to be the one to discuss his new job opportunity – and as of late Friday morning, he hasn’t.

Smith was at the forefront of Walker’s refusal to take state responsibility for the federal health purchasing exchanges which will take effect in 2014 – and yet, using those exchanges as part of his strategy to revamp Medicaid.

Instead of taking federal money to expand Medicaid, Walker chose to serve more childless adults below the poverty line in BadgerCare plus – while moving those above the poverty line to the federal insurance exchanges.

Smith talked up the idea as he walked out the door, saying it would, “stabilize the Medicaid programs for our most vulnerable citizens and give the department the tools necessary to secure these programs and set them on a path to sustainability.”

In a statement, Walker said the new secretary has a long involvement in health care issues, and Kitty Rhoades will serve the state well. Rhoades represented the Hudson area in the Assembly from 1999 through 2010.