The Medicaid expansion will also be introduced in this legislature

The Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee voted again to bring a bill before the January legislature that would authorize expansion of Medicaid.

The Wyoming Department of Health projects that around 19,000 people would benefit from the expansion. The majority of these would be below the federal poverty line. This is currently a group unable to purchase insurance.

South Dakota passed a referendum on expanding Medicaid in the last election, making Wyoming the only Mountain West state not to expand. Committee members heard from a Montana representative who expressed the benefits of the expansion. It increased the government workforce, health consumption and the quality of that care. In support of what the Montana representative presented to the committee, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently issued the following: a report which explored how Montana’s expansion could be a model for Wyoming. It said the expansion would dramatically increase coverage and provide tax savings for the state for many years to come.

Sheila Bush of the Wyoming Medical Society said approving an expansion will help with the current doctor shortage, as 99 percent of the state’s doctors treat some medical patients.

“The idea is that if you can enable your current doctors to care more appropriately for the existing population, you will help recruit new doctors,” Bush told lawmakers. “Because you recruit new employees who can pay more, the salary environment is more predictable.”

Bush reiterated that current Wyoming medical students who are part of WWAMI (Wyoming, Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho partnership with the University of Washington School of Medicine). support for expansion.

However, lawmakers raised concerns that the federal government could pressure the state to pay more money for the program. If the state were to step in now, it would only cover ten percent of the costs. However, there is a possibility that this ratio could change in the future. Supporting lawmakers commented that the way the bill is currently written includes an escape clause that would allow the state to exit the program if that pay ratio changed.

But Rep. Mark Baker (R-Green River) said the state should still resist expansion because it creates stronger bargaining power with the federal government.

I think that, as I said, our resistance actually puts us in a better negotiating position with the federal government and allows us to see other states’ mistakes,” Baker said.

Stefan Johansson of the Wyoming Department of Health
said he felt some flexibility about partial expansion with federal agencies, but added that there had been no commitments so far.

The draft law is now to be introduced in the legislative period in January.