Coalition calls for Legislature to approve fed expansion of Medicaid

Jan 23, 2013 The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- A coalition of medical groups is urging the Wyoming Legislature to approve expansion of the federal Medicaid program, a key element of the national Affordable Care Act.

The Wyoming Coalition for Medicaid Expansion, a group that includes the Wyoming Hospital Association and other medical and citizens' groups, held an event Tuesday in the state Capitol to draw attention to the issue.

The Senate Labor Health and Social Services Committee is set to consider a bill Wednesday that would expand Medicaid eligibility.

Sen. John Hastert, D-Green River, is sponsoring the expansion bill. "I think it's critically important at this time," he said Tuesday of the expansion. "We're going to be able to insure well over 30,000 more people in the state of Wyoming, and it would save the state some money."

Gov. Matt Mead and some key lawmakers have said they oppose expanding the program, a key element of the national Affordable Care Act. Mead has recommended that lawmakers reject a proposed $50 million federal Medicaid expansion.

The Medicaid program currently serves over 77,000 people at an annual cost of over $500 million, split evenly between the state and federal governments.

Mead, a Republican, steered Wyoming into the largely unsuccessful multi-state legal challenge to the federal law that led to last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding many provisions. He's complained in recent months that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services hasn't responded to his repeated demands for details of how the state would implement requirements of the law.

Recently, Mead has said that given the federal government's financial problems, he doesn't believe Wyoming can trust federal promises to pay 100 percent of Medicaid expansion costs over the next few years, after which it promises to pay 90 percent.

Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, is chairman of the Senate Labor Health and Social Services Committee. He said Tuesday he also opposes expanding the program.

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