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Wyo. Uninsured Rates High Compared to Medicaid Expansion States

Medicaid expansion has created more stable economies for health centers in rural areas, including a drop in the number of cases where patients don't have insurance or funds to pay out-of-pocket. (Pixabay)
Medicaid expansion has created more stable economies for health centers in rural areas, including a drop in the number of cases where patients don't have insurance or funds to pay out-of-pocket. (Pixabay)
September 26, 2018

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – States that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act saw uninsured rates for low-income adults drop over three times more than states, including Wyoming, that have not expanded coverage, according to a new report from Georgetown University.

Study co-author Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, says the coverage gap shows there's a big opportunity for states to expand Medicaid.

She notes 29 percent of Wyoming's urban residents, and 28 percent in rural areas, still do not have health insurance.

"Those are some of the highest uninsured rates in the nation for low-income adults,” she points out. “And so, if the state were to go ahead and expand Medicaid, we would expect to see a very sharp decline in those uninsured rates."

Alker says expanded coverage strengthens health care systems for all residents by keeping hospital and clinic doors open in rural areas where provider shortages are all too common.

Surveys say a majority of Wyoming residents support Medicaid expansion, but legislators have rejected proposals, citing concerns that the state could be on the hook for the cost if the Affordable Care Act implodes.

Alker counters that expanding coverage to more residents in rural areas already struggling with higher rates of unemployment and poverty makes economic sense.

"When there's a real option here on the table to take these Medicaid dollars, really, it's a wiser use of taxpayer dollars to provide them with the primary preventive care that comes with having health insurance up front, so they don't get sicker and wind up in the emergency room," she points out.

Alker reports Medicaid expansion has reduced incidents of uncompensated care, costs that hospitals incur when patients don't have insurance or the money to pay out-of-pocket.

"The providers in rural areas really benefit from a state decision to expand Medicaid,” she stresses. “Those hospitals, those clinics, those doctors that are serving those often underserved communities, this will become even more important to them."

Alker adds strong health centers are critical for rural communities, not only because of the care they provide, but they're frequently the largest employers in small towns.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY