January 28, 2021
CHEYENNE, WYO. – The Wyoming Legislature has convened amidst a pandemic that is straining the state’s medical infrastructure, as well as an economic downturn that is causing thousands of working people in Wyoming to lose their jobs—and, in turn, their health insurance. Since February 2020, an estimated 6,000 Wyomingites have lost job-based insurance and have no viable options for staying covered, which comes on top of the 30,000 who were already uninsured. The same goes for Wyomingites who continue to work in essential industries during the pandemic and do not get coverage through their jobs.
On top of the worsening health and economic crises in the state, a big item on the Legislature’s agenda is dealing with the $515 million in cuts proposed in Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon’s budget. These cuts come in addition to a roughly $250 million cut handed down by the governor’s executive action last summer, which disproportionately impacted the state’s Department of Health – leaving people who have lost job-based coverage to rely on the state’s shrinking public health system for care. This means that thousands of us in Wyoming need health care but can’t pay for it, whether we have lost our jobs, are between jobs, are caring for loved ones, or are starting a business.
Conspicuously absent from the Wyoming Legislature’s agenda is a plan to address the state’s growing health care access issues. The Healthy Wyoming Coalition, a collection of groups from around the state concerned about healthcare access, aims to change that. The coalition is working to make health care access a top priority for state lawmakers.
A recent report from the Healthy Wyoming Coalition and Families USA indicates that there is an easy way to help the tens of thousands of working people in Wyoming who do not have job-based coverage for the basic health care we all need. It is time for the state to make its Medicaid program available to people who need health care but can’t afford to pay for health insurance. Opening up Medicaid in this way would mean that our family members, friends, and neighbors without coverage would no longer have to choose between avoiding critical medical care due to the high cost or risking financial ruin to keep themselves and their families healthy.
The report also includes a table of the most common occupations of working people who would be eligible for extended Medicaid, which includes essential industries such as food preparation, cleaning and maintenance, transportation, and construction and extraction.
“The number of people without health insurance in Wyoming was already staggeringly high, and now it’s worse. Businesses can’t afford to provide their workers insurance, and far too many people have to choose between putting food on the table, paying rent, or going to the doctor,” said Chris Merrill, Executive Director at Equality State Policy Center, a member of the Healthy Wyoming Coalition. “Wyomingites are struggling, and our leaders need to step up and have the courage to figure out real solutions.”
“With the number of uninsured adults in Wyoming continuing to climb during the worst health and economic crisis in centuries, opening up Medicaid expansion would be a vital tool for keeping families and communities healthy,” said Eric Boley, President of the Wyoming Hospital Association. “As the COVID-19 crisis worsens, it is especially vital for everyone’s health that all Wyomingites have access to healthcare. We strongly encourage the state to explore the benefits of extending Medicaid now, before health coverage and provider access issues worsen.”
Healthy Wyoming is a broad-based coalition working for quality, affordable healthcare for all Wyoming.
Families USA, a leading national voice for health care consumers, is dedicated to the achievement of high quality, affordable health care and improved health for all.