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Despite passing committee, Medicaid expansion dies without a reading on House floor

Wyoming Medical Center
Wyoming Medical Center
Wyoming Medical Center in Casper is the state's largest hospital. Research suggests 19,000 or more uninsured Wyoming residents would gain health insurance access with the expansion of Medicaid.

A bill seeking to expand Medicaid in Wyoming has died again, repeating what has become an annual event in recent years. This year's bill didn't even get a reading in the House of Representatives despite growing support in the state.

Medicaid expansion enjoys majority support in Wyoming. Supporters and researchers say it will help at least 19,000 uninsured Wyomingites get coverage. And in recent years, more and more lawmakers are warming to the idea.

During a committee meeting this year, Republican Rep. Steve Harshman (R-Casper) explained his change of heart.

"I've just learned so much and as I've learned more — it's the right thing to do for the people," he said. "And I think the people of Wyoming who have been opposed to it have come around. I think you've even seen that nationally."

Harshman helped advance the bill out of committee. But that's as far as it went.

House Majority Leader Chip Neiman (R- Hulett) is setting the schedule for the House of Representatives this year. Neiman never brought the Medicaid expansion bill to the floor, so it died uneventfully on Mon. Feb. 5, when it missed a key deadline.

Popular support for Medicaid expansion has been growing in Wyoming. But each year, it faces new legislative difficulties. Two years ago, a Medicaid expansion bill passed in the House only to die in a Senate committee. Last year, a Medicaid expansion bill failed to be introduced, and an attempt to slip expansion into the state budget also failed.

Advocates say they'll keep fighting for expansion.

Wyoming is one of just 11 states that has not expanded Medicaid.

Jeff is a part-time reporter for Wyoming Public Media, as well as the owner and editor of the Laramie Reporter, a free online news source providing in-depth and investigative coverage of local events and trends.
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