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With Mead opposed, lawmakers say Medicaid expansion probably dead

Dec 5, 2012 - The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- Some key Wyoming lawmakers say they see little chance the Legislature will expand the Medicaid program in coming months now that Gov. Matt Mead has recommended against doing so.

Mead rolled out his budget recommendations on Friday, advocating against accepting $50 million in federal funds to expand the low-income health care program. The expansion proposal is a cornerstone of the federal Affordable Care Act.

Wyoming has about 77,000 people on Medicaid, and the proposed expansion could add another 30,000 by raising eligibility limits. The Wyoming program currently costs about $500 million a year, split evenly between the state and federal governments.

Despite the federal government's promise to pick up the bulk of expansion costs for the first few years, Mead said he doubts it can be trusted to stick with any long-term commitment. He said the ultimate decision on whether to accept the federal funds lies with the Legislature, which convenes in January.

Mead, a Republican, had pressed U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius repeatedly for information about how Wyoming would implement the new federal programs. He said a lack of any response was a factor in his announcement that Wyoming wouldn't meet a recent federal deadline to specify whether it would operate a health insurance exchange program under the health care law.

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