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Lawmakers pitch county on health insurance proposal

Dec 18, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

The legislators expressed concerns about the idea and also doubted that it would stand much chance of passage during the 20-day budget session early next year.

Fremont County Commissioners are asking state senators and representatives for help with local legislative issues.

State Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, said he had been working on legislation to allow county employees onto the state employee health insurance plan. He was hoping the Joint Appropriations Committee would add the provision to a current draft bill allowing employees of cooperative educational services and irrigation districts onto the state insurance plan.

As envisioned, counties would have the choice to join the state plan but would not have to.

The Wyoming County Commission Association supports the proposed legislation.

"There are some reasons not to do it from a state's point of view," state Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander said.

He feared people wanting to leave their current plan would have a reason to want to join a new one and would be expensive to insure. Case said he was skeptical of the idea.

He also thought the legislation had little chance of passing during the short budget session. Just 20 days are allotted for this session convening in February, while the following year's general session runs for 40 days.

State Sen. Gerald Geis, R-Worland, agreed.

"Your chances are almost nil during a budget session," he said.

Geis said he was not opposed to such a bill himself, though.

"I'm going to probably be a little hesitant on it also," state Rep. Dave Miller, R-Riverton, said. "It seems almost like were allowing everyone involved in the ruling class and leaving the people of Wyoming to fend for themselves."

Larsen thought allowing county employees onto the state insurance plan was only fair, as school districts have the option to use it for their employees.

Commission chairman Doug Thompson thought insuring county employees through the state plan would save money overall because a larger pool of people could find cheaper rates for healthcare.

Case said he and Larsen are also developing a bill to change how group homes release juveniles who are arrested.

Currently, they can be released to anyone 19 years old or older, he said. The adult has to sign a form saying they will tell the juvenile's parents, but there is no guarantee they will do so, Case said.

"Any warm-bodied adult can end up with custody of the kid," he said "The whole alternative to juvenile justice isn't to throw them out into the cold."

His bill would have court decide if an adult other than a parent is suitable to have a juvenile released to them.