Empower Wisconsin | Oct. 22, 2019
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Taxpayers would have to cover the cost of sex changes under an Evers administration emergency rule proposal.
The state Department of Health Services (DHS) is poised to repeal a long-standing rule that excluded BadgerCare — Wisconsin’s Medicaid program — from covering “[d]rugs, including hormone therapy, associated with transsexual surgery or medically unnecessary alteration of sexual anatomy or characteristics” and [t]ranssexual surgery.”
State Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin) said “taxpayers should not be funding any of this stuff.”
“This is what (Evers) means by Medicaid expansion, I guess,” the lawmaker said. The governor and legislative Democrats have proposed expanding BadgerCare for more Wisconsin residents, using hundreds of millions of dollars in federal tax dollars to do it.
DHS says its hands are tied.
In August, U.S. District Court Judge William Conley sided with plaintiffs in a lawsuit alleging Wisconsin’s exclusions are discriminatory. Conley a year earlier issued a preliminary injunction ordering the state to pay for the sexual reassignments of the two plaintiffs in the case. DHS, under the direction of then-Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, appealed the injunction.
Conley came back with a permanent injunction, asserting that the state’s argument that sex reassignment and hormonal treatments are unnecessary “is no longer reasonable.” His ruling points to the American Medical Association position on the necessity of such procedures.
In its rule change, DHS said there are “no reasonable alternatives to the repeal” of the exclusion because of Conley’s injunction. The judge, DHS points out, previously had ruled against an identical exclusion relating to coverage from the Department of Employee Trust Funds. On a 5-4 vote, in August 2018 the department’s Group Insurance Board, which oversees state employee medical benefits, approved health coverage for hormone treatment and “medically necessary gender reassignment” surgery.
“The exclusions must be repealed to ensure consistency between Department policy and its rule and to ensure the public is aware that Medicaid coverage is available for treatment services,” the agency wrote. “Repeal of the exclusions may also assist the Department in securing a stay of current litigation and mitigating damages the Court may award in the case.”
DHS officials did not return Empower Wisconsin’s call seeking comment.
The Evers administration could appeal the district court’s decision, but it won’t because the liberal governor is a proponent of such taxpayer-funded procedures.
Some states have fought government and court demands that taxpayers pick up the tab for sex-change operations. The Iowa Legislature, for instance, this year passed a law protecting taxpayers from paying for gender transition procedures after the court there ruled such protections a violation of due process.
A federal judge in Texas recently struck down an Obama administration mandate requiring doctors perform gender transition procedures, ruling that such demands violate conscience protections for medical professionals, the Washington Examiner reported.
Sanfelippo said the Evers administration has dragged its feet on fixing the Medicaid benefits cliff for the working poor, but it is quick to endorse taxpayer funding for sex-change operations.
“This shows the priorities of this administration,” Sanfelippo said. “They aren’t looking for expanding Medicaid, they are looking for expansion of their liberal ideology.”