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Medicaid expansion will once again be introduced in this legislative session

The Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee has voted once more to introduce a bill to the legislative session in January that would approve medicaid expansion.

The Wyoming Department of Health projectsthat about 19,000 individuals would benefit from the expansion. The majority of those would be below the federal poverty level. This is currently a group that is unable to get any insurance.

South Dakota passed medicaid expansion in a referendum this past election, making Wyoming the only state in the Mountain West that has not expanded. Committee members heard from a Montana representative that expressed the benefits of expansion. It increased the state workforce, healthcare consumption and quality of that care. In support of what the Montana representative presented to the committee, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently came out with a report that looked at how Montana’s expansion could be a model for Wyoming. It said expanding would dramatically increase coverage while providing the state with fiscal savings for many years to come.

Wyoming Medical Society’s Sheila Bush said approving expansion will help with the current physician shortage since 99 percent of doctors in the state see some medicaid patients.

“The idea is if you can allow your current physician workforce to care in a more appropriate way for the existing population you’re going to help recruit new physicians,” Bush told legislators. “Because you’re recruiting new estate that can pay more, there’s more predictability in that pay environment.”

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

However, legislators against it expressed worry that the federal government could make the state pay more money on the program. If the state would opt in now, it would only pay ten percent of the cost. But there is a possibility that that ratio could change in the future. Legislators in favor, commented that the way the bill is written right now there is a trigger clause that would let the state leave the program if that pay ratio did change.

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

I think that our resistance, like I said, actually puts us in a better negotiating position with the federal government and to be able to see the mistakes that other states have made,” said Baker.

The Wyoming Department of Health’s Stefan Johansson
said he sensed some flexibility regarding partial expansion with the feds, but added there have been no commitments as of yet.

The bill will now be introduced in the legislative session in January.

Kamila has worked for public radio stations in California, New York, France and Poland. Originally from New York City, she loves exploring new places. Kamila received her master in journalism from Columbia University. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the surrounding areas with her two pups and husband.
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