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Wyoming lawmakers vote against Medicaid expansion

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 23, 2013 at 5:13 pm •  Published: January 23, 2013

Expansion proponents, however, emphasized at Wednesday's committee hearing that even if the federal government eventually reneges on its promises, Wyoming citizens who otherwise wouldn't have insurance would benefit from whatever increased coverage they could get until that happens. No one in the audience spoke against the bill.

Sponsor Sen. John Hastert, D-Green River, and other supporters emphasized that an analysis by the Wyoming Department of Health concluded that expanding Medicaid would save the state money by relieving pressure on existing programs. He said the agency concluded the state would see $47 million in savings over seven years because of offsets.

"For people who have no coverage today, three years could certainly make a huge difference in their health and their ability to get health care coverage, and their ability to have health care issues taken care of," Hastert said.

Co-sponsor Sen. John Schiffer, R-Kaycee, told the committee the benefits of accepting the federal expansion are readily apparent. He said the Legislature would be remiss in its duty to state citizens not to take the federal government up on its offer. He said the federal government is likely to continue funding the program due to demand from predominantly Democratic states.

A coalition of medical groups, including the Wyoming Hospital Association, has been pushing to accept the optional expansion. Dan Perdue, lobbyist for the association, told the committee that member hospitals saw more than $200 million in uncompensated care in 2011 and said the figure would probably decrease if more people had coverage.

Allison Sage, with the Northern Arapaho Tribe's health department, urged the committee to pass the bill. "We have a great need on the Wind River Indian Reservation, Fremont County, of getting Medicaid expansion," he said, adding that if the program isn't expanded more people will be forced to use emergency room care.

Sen. Bernadine Craft, D-Rock Springs, cast the lone vote for the bill in committee. Sens. Scott; Leslie Nutting, R-Cheyenne; James L. Anderson, R-Casper; and Ray Peterson, R-Cowley, voted no. The committee then voted 4-to-1 to give the bill a "do not pass" recommendation with Craft casting the lone vote in favor of the expansion.

Hastert said after the vote that the bill will head to the Senate Appropriations Committee before it could proceed to the floor. He said he believes there's a pretty good chance the bill will still come to the Senate floor.