Health and Labor Committee discusses Medicaid expansion options

Dec 13, 2012

During a hearing in Cheyenne, the Legislature’s Joint Labor and Health Committee was told that if Medicaid is expanded, the state could provide better insurance to about 30 percent of Wyoming residents. 

Because the federal government will subsidize the expansion, Department of Health Director Tom Forslund said that the state will save $50 million by no longer having to pay for some services it provides. 

Senator John Schiffer of Kaycee said for him, that makes the issue easy.  He says refusing to expand means the state is endorsing a higher cost option.

“But that’s what this legislature is doing, is saying we are going to go the high cost option.  Not better service, not better coverage, actually its poorer in both of those categories,” says Schiffer.  “And, in addition, we are going to spend $50 million for a lesser product.”

Still, many fear that the feds might not be able to afford the program, shifting the cost to the state.  Laramie Representative Matt Greene says if that happens, the state could just drop the program. 

House Committee Chairwoman Elaine Harvey says that’s hard to do.

“You cut the program out because the federal government didn’t keep its end of the bargain?  I think the turnover in the house would be a little greater than 30 percent,” Harvey says. “The reality is once you given people a benefit, it’s extremely difficult to remove it.”

The committee will consider taking action on the issue on Friday.