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Senate defeats Medicaid expansion bill

Feb 13, 2014 - By Ben Neary, The Associated Press

But the issue might be reconsidered in a different form later.

CHEYENNE -- The Wyoming Senate on Wednesday voted down a bill endorsed by an interim legislative committee that would have allowed the expansion of the Medicaid program in the state.

The Senate voted 16 to 14 against considering a bill endorsed by the joint Labor, Health and Social Services Committee. The bill would have allowed the use of Medicaid funds to pay private health insurance premiums.

Sen. Bernadine Craft, a Rock Spring Democrat, spoke for the bill. She says she's still hopeful the Legislature will approve some form of Medicaid expansion.

"I want us to get something on the floor, I want us to do something," Craft said after the vote. "I hope we can keep something alive, because I think it's a critical thing for us to do for the citizens of Wyoming to at least debate this on the floor."

The action leaves another committee bill pending in the Wyoming House. The so-called Medicaid Fit bill would offer recipients more limited benefits than the usual Medicaid program. Other bills sponsored by individual lawmakers that take other approaches to Medicaid expansion also are pending.

Rep. Elaine Harvey, R-Lovell, is chairwoman of the House Labor, Health and Social Services Committee. She said Wednesday she expects that a vote on whether to introduce the Medicaid Fit bill could happen Friday in the House.

The Legislature last year rejected $50 million in federal funds for the expansion, which could offer health insurance to roughly 17,600 people in the state.

Expanding Medicaid to cover adults whose salaries are just above the federal poverty level is an essential platform of the federal Affordable Care Act. It's also become a rallying cry for Wyoming Democrats.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, a Republican, told lawmakers in his State of the State address Monday that he remains opposed to Medicaid Expansion.

Under Mead's leadership, Wyoming joined with other states a few years ago in a constitutional challenge to the law.

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