By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov.-elect Tony Evers named five members of his Cabinet on Thursday, including two Democratic state lawmakers and a former Obama administration official who had worked on the federal health care law.
Evers picked state Sen. Caleb Frostman to head the Department of Workforce Development; assistant state superintendent Dawn Crim to be secretary of the Department of Safety and Professional Services; state Rep. Peter Barca to lead the Department of Revenue; his chief of staff Emilie Amundson to head the Department of Children and Families; and Andrea Palm for the Department of Health Services.
Evers’ choices for the Department of Workforce Development and Department of Safety and Professional Services quickly won praise from the Local 494 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
“Dawn brings a wide range of expertise on licenses and regulations issues and will be a very valuable asset for the Evers administration and for policymaking in Wisconsin,” said Dean Warsh, Local 494 business manager.
“Caleb has demonstrated the ability that he knows how to work with all stakeholders to meet the workforce needs of our state. Caleb Frostman will be both responsible and prepared to fight for the next generation of the workforce.”
Evers, a Democrat, will take over from Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, on Monday. With his announces on Thursday, Evers has nearly completed his Cabinet, now having to choose only his secretary for the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. The nominations don’t guarantee, though, that the people selected will actually end up in office. The picks are still subject to confirmation by the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Senate.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald did not immediately return an email seeking comment on Evers’ latest choices.
Palm, who has experience as a member of President Barack Obama’s administration working on the Affordable Care Act, is a key addition to Evers’ inner circle. As the head of the Department of Health Services, she will oversee a state agency with a $12 billion annual budget and that works with Wisconsin’s Badger Care Plus Medicaid program, SeniorCare and various other public-benefits programs.
Palm’s selection drew praise from Jon Peacock, research director at Kids Forward, which advocates for Medicaid expansion.
“Palm brings a wide range of expertise on health care issues and will be a very valuable asset for the Evers administration and for health care policymaking in Wisconsin,” Peacock said.
On the campaign trail, Evers pledged to expand health-care coverage and carry out a Medicaid expansion allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act. Walker and Republicans who control the Legislature permitted a partial expansion, but never accepted federal money that would have been needed to cover about 75,000 additional poor people.
Under Wisconsin law, those only earning up to the poverty level, or $12,140 for a single person, qualify for the state’s Badger Care Plus Medicaid program. Increasing the limit to 138 percent of the poverty level — $16,753 for a single person and $34,638 for a family of four — would require legislative approval.
Making the move to accept the federal expansion would save the state an estimated $180 million a year. Wisconsin has missed out on $1.1 billion since 2014, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. Thirty-five states have taken the money, and voters in three others voted in the November
election to approve the proposed expansion.
Evers plans to put the $180 million in his budget proposal and increase reimbursement rates for Medicaid providers, hoping to reach a compromise with Republicans who have argued against expansion because of the additional cost it would place on doctors.
Wisconsin’s BadgerCare Plus Medicaid program now covers about 773,000 people, about 300,000 of whom are non-disabled, non-elderly adults. The department’s total budget this year is about $12.3 billion, of which $4 billion is state general-purpose money. More than 80 percent of the agency’s budget, about $10.2 billion, is spent on Medicaid programs.
Palm most served as senior counselor to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under Obama from 2014 until 2017.
According to her online biography, Palm oversaw the operational agenda of the public health and human services agencies, which employs more than 60,000 staff members. She also worked, when the Affordable Care Act was being rolled out, as a senior adviser to the White House Domestic Policy Council.
Before joining the Obama administration in 2009, she had worked for five years as a health-policy adviser to then-Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Barca, of Kenosha, is a former Democratic minority leader and former congressman and had worked in then-President Bill Clinton’s administration. His departure from the Assembly will require Evers to call a special election to replace him.
Frostman, of Sturgeon Bay, was elected to the Senate in a special election last year. He lost to Republican Rep. Andre Jacque in November. He previously served as executive director of the Door County Economic Development Corporation.
Crim, before she joined the state education department, worked for 20 years within the University of Wisconsin System. She first came to UW-Madison in 1996 to work as an assistant women’s basketball coach.
— Dan Shaw of The Daily Reporter contributed to this article.