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New laws affect WLRC, emergency centers

Apr 12, 2016 By Christina George, Staff Writer

Legislation passed recently by the Wyoming Legislature promises several changes to Wyoming's health care picture.

State Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, is a member of the Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Committee, which sponsored 17 bills in the 2016 session, all of which passed.

"We had a very busy interim," Larsen said. "I was pleased with the effort of that committee."

Among the legislation was a bill making changes in state law needed for new missions at the Wyoming Life Resource Center in Lander and the Wyoming State Hospital in Evanston. Renovations and construction are planned at the two state-run health care facilities to accommodate new populations.

"We had a great bill on direct primary care, which will allow a private citizen to have a contractual agreement with a doctor at a fixed rate. We put that in statutes so that it's legal to do," Larsen said. "That's a wonderful addition."

According to the bill, direct primary care agreements are written agreements between a patient and a health care provider describing health care services to be provided in exchange for payment of a periodic fee and which prevent the provider from seeking additional reimbursement from the patient's insurance or other third parties.

Involuntary commitments

Larsen said he was pleased to see another bill pass providing treatment options for persons involuntarily committed for mental illness, such as outpatient treatment, and oversight of the commitment process.

The bill also clarifies counties' obligation to pay for the involuntarily hospitalization process for the first 72 hours among other aspects of the system. Currently, counties are required to pay only after hospitals have made an attempt to collect payment for patients.

"We've got a lot of work to do on involuntary commitments, and we passed the first of several bills to redesign and fix programs," Larsen said.

Emergency centers

Lawmakers approved a bill which allows emergency departments of Wyoming-licensed hospitals to establish freestanding emergency center without needing to get a separate license.

"If you have a hospital in one town and a rural community a number of miles away, it could have an emergency care unit there and be associated with the hospital," Larsen said.

Larsen said another successful bill will help private hospitals with their upper payment limits to receive more Medicaid reimbursement dollars.

"A lot of that stuff had a lot of significant impact on a lot of things in the state," he said about the committee's bills.

Budget session

The 20-day session, which established the state's budget for the next two years, was the second budget session for Larsen, who said he liked how the Legislature switched from having one budget bill to several.

"It let us get a little more detail where the money was coming from and what intended distribution of funds were, and we had more of a chance to vote for or against items," he said. "It certainly allowed for more discussion on specific spending items, and I think that was a positive thing."

Larsen said legislators cut general funds spending but increased the amount of federal funds spent.

"That's the discussion we are going to have to have. It's a policy issue - if we cut spending, do we back fill it with federal funds that can come with a lot of strings attached?" he said.

To make up a revenue deficit due to a downturn in the energy sector, the Legislature made several votes cutting spending and programs.

"I thought there was a lot of ideas. At the end of the day when we voted for the budget bill it had strong support, but I think it wasn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination," Larsen said.

Education cuts

Larsen said he was frustrated with discussion on how to fund K-12 education in Wyoming. Heading into session, education was projected to see a $45 million cut. When the session wrapped, the figure dropped to $36 million.

"As we looked at cost-saving measures, education, I felt, should have participated in that, and for the most part they did not, and I am frustrated with the whole dialogue there."

, and I think we've got to fix that," Larsen said. "I think education is extremely important, but we continue to give external cost adjustments to education when the cost adjustments aren't warranted, and once you give them, you can't get them back.

"The rate of spending on education is on a crash course, and if we are not careful, we are going to get upside down in five years," he added.

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