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WY Medicaid Expansion Could Advance in Joint Revenue Committee

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Children in states that expanded their Medicaid programs are almost twice as likely to have health coverage than children in the 12 non-expansion states, including Wyoming. (Depositphotos)
Children in states that expanded their Medicaid programs are almost twice as likely to have health coverage than children in the 12 non-expansion states, including Wyoming. (Depositphotos)
 By Eric Galatas - Producer, Contact
May 11, 2021

RIVERTON, Wyo. -- Wyoming lawmakers are giving Medicaid expansion a second look at today's Joint Revenue Committee meeting in Riverton, after proposals failed to clear the Senate in this year's legislative session.

Jan Cartwright, executive director of the Wyoming Primary Care Association, said the pandemic and downturns in the fossil-fuel sector exposed gaps in the state's health-care system when Wyoming workers lost job-related health insurance.

She contended expanding Medicaid would help fill those gaps.

"There are people who are not able to access health care other than through the emergency room, where it's the most high-cost and least effective," Cartwright explained. "And these would be funds that would help to stabilize our health care system for everyone in Wyoming."

It's estimated expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would provide health coverage to some 24,000 Wyoming residents, mostly single mothers who earn too much to qualify for standard Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance.

Opponents argued Wyoming doesn't need federal assistance to take care of its residents, and warned the state would be on the hook for additional costs if the ACA is ever dismantled.

Cartwright pointed out it has been nine years since the U.S. Supreme Court made expansion optional for states, and taxpayers continue to be on the hook when uninsured patients can't pay medical bills.

The Wyoming Hospital Association estimates expansion would cut uncompensated care costs by more than $100 million a year.

Cartwright noted recent bills, including House Bill 162, which cleared the House for the first time, give the state an 'out' if federal contributions drop.

"Every bill that has been considered by the Legislature has language that would allow the state to step back if the federal match changed, so we're not stuck," Cartwright asserted. "It would be important to do this for the expansion population now, and we'll deal with the future in the future."

If the Joint Revenue Committee votes in favor of expanding Medicaid during the interim session, a committee-backed bill would give Gov. Mark Gordon permission to discuss options for expansion with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

A Wyoming expansion plan would likely be considered in next year's budget session.

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