The outlook does not look good for the proposal to expand Medicaid in Wyoming to cover approximately 20,000 statewide residents. It was shot down Jan. 20 by the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Appropriation Committee.
Here’s the thing, though. It isn’t dead.
The JAC struck the item from Gov. Matt Mead’s 2017-2018 budget plan, but lawmakers, if they choose to do the right thing, can bring a stand alone bill before the Legislature during the session that begins Feb. 8. What’s necessary: a dose of courage to serve the underserved.
Those who oppose the expansion say individuals will abandon their private insurance plans. They’ve also expressed concern that the federal government won’t live up to its promise to pay for its share of the costs.
OK. So write around that. Why not write a bill that says the state will expand Medicaid until the federal government says it can no longer pay its share? To turn its back on anything the federal government promises to contribute funding to would be detrimental to the state’s finances overall.
According to estimates from Mead’s administration, the expansion of Medicaid would save Wyoming more than $30 million over the next two years by reducing the demands for other health services.
For a state that routinely receives more than a third of its budget from federal funds (Source: Pew Charitable Trusts), objecting to Medicaid expansion for fear the federal government won’t pay is brazen. If legislators are wary of the federal government’s willingness to pay, they should be reevaluating the entire state budget and trim the other programs that rely heavily on federal funding, such as highway projects.
It’s popular to oppose the Affordable Care Act for all sorts of reasons. Opposing the expansion of Medicaid, however, primarily hurts those among us with the least.
The Legislature should approve this expansion.