2019| Week of January 7 | #1290
On Monday, Tony Evers was sworn in as Wisconsin’s 46th governor. Whether you like him or not, for the next four years, he is Wisconsin’s chief executive officer. With that comes duties, responsibilities and authority.
One of the duties and responsibilities the governor in Wisconsin has is to make appointments to various boards. Under the Scott Walker administration, generally people who held values and positions similar to Walker’s were appointed to these positions. Tony Evers values and positions are different from Scott Walker’s. Evers will, as did Walker, appoint people who largely share his worldview.
Walker made a lot of appointments in his final days in office and received approval from the Republican led Senate for those appointments. Most appointments are for several years, so some of Evers’ early appointing power will be limited.
The Group Insurance Board is a great illustration of this appointment power. This Board sets policy and oversees administration of the group health, life insurance and Income Continuation Insurance plans for state employees and retirees and the group health and life insurance plans for local employers who choose to offer them. The GIB membership consists of eleven people. Five members are automatically and permanently on the Board because of the position they hold as the head of state agencies or departments—such as the Commissioner of Insurance or the governor or his/her designee. The other 6 members are appointed by the governor for 2-year terms. All six of the governor-appointed members’ terms end on May 1 of this year.
So that means in just a matter of months, the Group Insurance Board will be comprised of 100% Evers’ appointed members, since the governor also appoints the heads of state agencies and departments that are represented on the board.
Normally the actions of the Group Insurance Board don’t get our attention unless we are state employees or work for another unit of government that uses the state’s health insurance program. However, a decision this Board made late last summer does impact us—and with Governor Evers’ appointees on this board soon, we might be looking at more such decisions.
A number of years ago the Group Insurance Board decided taxpayers should pay for so-called gender reassignment surgeries for state employees covered under Medicaid. During Scott Walker’s administration, the Board appropriately reversed that policy, which of course prompted a legal challenge from a couple of people seeking this surgery. Last year the court ruled that it is illegal for the state of Wisconsin to not pay for these surgeries deemed “medically necessary” by the plaintiffs and their physicians. With that single decision, the Group Insurance Board on a narrow 5-4 vote reversed its policy, making the taxpayers of Wisconsin pay for these surgeries for qualified state employees. That policy went into effect last week on January 1.
I get that no government agency enjoys losing a lawsuit. But the Group Insurance Board in reacting to this court decision, acted in fear and bought a whole bunch of laws and eventually got this vote wrong—really wrong. Just as abortion isn’t health care and abortion isn’t a medically necessary procedure, neither is surgery whose sole purpose is to irreversibly mutilate parts of the body. One’s sex cannot be changed. Period. Further, because gender confusion is a psychological and emotional disorder, not a physiological one, such surgeries do not fix the underlying problem. In fact, I and others would argue they actually make the real issue worse.
Making taxpayers pay for these surgeries is egregiously wrong. Just as we have laws that prohibit taxpayers from paying for abortions through state insurance policies, so we should have policies protecting taxpayers from paying for these totally elective surgeries. However, unless the Group Insurance Board reverses itself again and does so soon, I don’t see any change forthcoming because people will be on the board who share Tony Evers’ liberal worldview. And since Evers is very willing to advance the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning agenda, I’m confident those he appoints will do so as well. While some of Tony Evers’ power will be mitigated by the Republican-controlled state legislature, I don’t anticipate the State Senate denying him his appointments in any significant way. Just because his appointments may be liberal, doesn’t necessarily mean they are unfit or unqualified to serve on boards and commissions. To the victor belongs the spoils.
That brings us to an oft quoted statement about elections: elections have consequences. And those consequences often are much more far-reaching and long-lasting than any of us can foresee. Wisconsin citizens need to remember that the next time we have opportunity to vote.
This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council reminding you the Prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”