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The Wyoming Senate Labor Committee is hearing testimony on Medicaid expansion

(KGWN)
Published: Mar. 31, 2021 at 9:52 AM CDT
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - The Senate Labor Committee did not vote to move forward with the bill. It failed 2-3 on Wednesday morning. Public comment lasted around three hours.

The Sponsor of House Bill 162, John B. Romero-Martinez (R-HD 44), said he was emotional and extremely disappointed. “Just because it failed today,” Romero-Martinez said, “Doesn’t mean we aren’t going to come up with a solution for tomorrow.”

The bill would have expanded Medicaid eligibility for two years had it passed. Part of the bill also said that Wyoming wouldn’t administer the expanded benefits if the federal government didn’t meet certain matching requirements. In the House of Representatives, some supporters said this was one of the aspects that made them change their minds. Some supporters in the House in 2021 said they opposed Medicaid expansion every other time it was brought up in a session, but this year, they changed their minds. This argument was not enough to win over enough Senators in the Senate Labor Committee.

The Wyoming Department of Health, at least according to the fiscal note in the bill, estimated about 19,000 more people could enroll in Medicaid in those two years. Other estimates said it could be around 24,000 people.

Marcie Kindred, a Laramie County resident, testified at Wednesday morning’s meeting. In an interview with Wyoming News Now, she said, “I think the misconception about Medicaid is that they’re not working, they’re lazy, they’re taking advantage of the system.”

“I had at least one job, sometimes two, when I was on Medicaid,” Kindred said. “My husband was in the same boat. We were both working, just not able to provide healthcare for our family. Medicaid provided that for our family and it really provided us the hand up to be able to get in a better place which is where we are at currently.”

Kindred also shared she and her husband were recently able to buy their first home.

Those who voted against the bill expressed several concerns. One of those concerns was the fact that it was a federal program that they said wasn’t sustainable. Some who testified also expressed that it may negatively affect rural hospitals.

Senator Anthony Bouchard (R-SD06) said some aspects of the Medicaid program take away from states being free to work out their own solutions. He said he was also worried about potential tax increases.

When asked what solution he might offer moving forward to help Wyomingites who can’t afford healthcare, Sen. Bouchard said, “The problem we have here is that we’ve made cuts to health care,” Sen. Bouchard said. “I gotta tell you it seems like every time we do something like that, we’re doing it to try and push a different solution. Let’s take the carpet out from people over here, so that way we can force the agenda to do the easiest solution that we can find. That’s not the solution. The solution that we have here would increase taxes at some point.”

Those who supported Medicaid expansion acknowledged that it isn’t a perfect solution. However, they said the Legislature hasn’t been able to offer up a different solution.

“Well, it is probably the tenth year that we’ve had that same response. Well, let’s look for alternatives, let’s study it, let’s look for something else. Then an absolute abdication of any leadership thereafter,” said Senator Chris Rothfuss (D-SD09). He is also the Minority Floor Leader in the Senate.

“It’s just talking points, there’s no substance behind it. There’s no merit to the idea that somebody will come up with something different. You can’t replace a couple of hundred million dollars without dipping into more taxpayer funds. The reality is we are already paying those taxes to the feds, we are just not willing to accept them back. Honestly, we’ve kind of reached the point of absurdity where we have turned down a net profit of $34 million over the next two years so that we can refuse to turn down affordable healthcare to some of our population.”

Wyoming News Now reached out to the Governor’s office to see if Governor Gordon was following the Medicaid expansion debate. His office responded by email saying the Governor was disappointed the bill wasn’t able to be heard on the Senate floor.

Original Story | The Wyoming Senate Labor Committee is currently hearing testimony on Medicaid expansion. You can listen live here.

The bill the committee is considering is House Bill 162.

This article will be updated throughout the day.

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