The Senate voted 20-10 against a budget amendment that would have expanded Medicaid for two years. It would have benefited nearly 20-thousand Wyoming low-income residents who either cannot get insurance or afford it.
Governor Matt Mead pushed hard for the expansion and even Senate Appropriations Chairman Tony Ross was a supporter, saying the 278 million dollars the state would receive would help balance the budget. That money would have been used to pay for the expansion and other health care services.
But Casper Senator Charlie Scott, a long time opponent of expansion and Medicaid, said when people get on Medicaid they are reluctant to leave the system and won’t pursue better jobs.
“And what you’ve done is create a system that tends to hold people in bondage, bondage Mr. President, to the welfare bureaucracy of the Health Dept.”
Democrat Bernadine Craft said she has bigger concerns.
“You know who I’m concerned about? I’m concerned about the people who are working three jobs and they still can’t make ends meet.”
Craft says expansion would certainly help that population. In a statement she said she was disappointed with the outcome.
"I am sad that 20,000 Wyoming citizens remain without health insurance. I am sad for our hospitals; they will continue to bear the burden of losing approximately $110 million each year in costs of uncompensated and charity care."
Governor Matt Mead echoed Craft’s statement and said he will continue to fight for expansion.
“I appreciate the Wyoming employers, businesses and associations who have stepped forward in support of Medicaid expansion. I believe it is the right way to go. Their voices will continue to be important in the months ahead.”
The Senate also defeated a similar amendment ending discussion of expanding Medicaid for the rest of the legislative session. The House did not consider the issue.
The Senate and House later approved the budget for the next two years, but all House Democrats voted against the bill siting concerns that not enough was being done for Wyoming people. A conference committee will iron out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.