Medicaid Expansion

A chance to do the right thing

Senate Labor, Health panel hears Medicaid Expansion bill

Committee should send proposal to floor for full public discussion

Members of the Senate Labor Health and Social Services Committee should endorse a proposal to adopt the federal Medicaid Expansion option in the federal health reform law. There are many good reasons for doing so. If the senators do the math, they’ll see the idea makes economic sense for the state. And it’s the right thing to do for the people who need the insurance coverage. Medical care is expensive. Many Wyoming families know they’re one accident or major illness away from financial devastation because they have no insurance. The Medicaid Expansion can keep the wolf from the door, however, for 17,600 Wyoming people. One concern of people hesitant to adopt the optional expansion is the federal government’s ability to provide the matching funding promised in the Affordable Care Act. Where is the evidence it will not? The federal government has never failed to make a Medicaid payment to the state, according to the director of the Department of Health. Our country rose out of revolution and has thrived because it always has risen to meet its challenges. It – and we – will again. And we should note that we don’t hear similar doubts s about the dependability of federal funds for highway maintenance and many other programs that are critical to Wyoming, such as federal mineral royalties or coal bonus bids. If Congress wants to balance the budget, that’s easy money to grab. Wyoming receives more federal aid to state and local governments, per capita, than any other state except Alaska. We receive aid from the departments of Agriculture, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation and other agencies. The Medicaid Expansion presents an opportunity to expand access to medical care to some of our most vulnerable neighbors. Many of them are working folks who don’t have health insurance provided on the job and who don’t earn enough to buy it themselves. Others suffer from chronic health problems and may need a procedure such as a knee or back surgery to allow them to again hold a job that makes them a more productive member of the community. Senate File 122 Expansion of Medicaid enables Wyoming to opt out of the expansion if the federal government does not live up to its promises to provide the lion’s share of funding necessary. It gives the committee a chance to give more than 17,000 of our neighbors the chance to build a health relationship with a doctor or to get a critical surgery they need to become employable again. We know several committee members worry about the federal government’s ability to meet the promised match in future years. But what is the alternative for individuals and families below 138% of the federal poverty level? Nothing else has been proposed to provide health care for them. They won’t get subsidies for purchasing health insurance on the exchanges. They have nothing except the cost-shifted care they can get in the emergency room – that is paid for through higher health service costs and insurance premiums for everyone else – with the added insult that much of this expense could have been prevented by providing access to basic health care for everyone. The senators should remember that Wyomingites are paying for this program through their federal income taxes. Should we see our money go to other states that are going to implement the Medicaid Expansion, and in turn place our employers at a competitive disadvantage against those states? The Medicaid Expansion bill is the second of two bills before the Senate committee Wednesday morning (Jan. 23). The hearing starts at 8 a.m. in the cramped committee room on the third floor of the Capitol, S-20. For additional information, see the Wyoming Coalition for Medicaid Expansion news release and fact sheet.

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