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Wyoming's chance

Oct 27, 2013 - By Steven R. Peck

With the federal health care website failing, let's prove our state can do a better job

Wyoming, it turns out, is not immune to the problems of technology plaguing the newly implemented Affordable Care Act.

It seems there's nothing special about our state borders. The health care website doesn't work very well here, either.

The president has made his disgust clear, and some of the highest-profile and most qualified technical capabilities apparently are being brought in to try to grab this thing by the horns.

Meanwhile, opponents of Obamacare could hardly be more thrilled. They are trumpeting the website's malfunction as proof positive that the massive and hard-won health care insurance law is a disaster.

The poor functionality is inexcusable. No one is trying to make any excuses for it. It is a mess, and everyone knows it.

But it is high-flying hypocrisy for the law's critics to use the website snafu as justification for attacking the law itself. A month ago, when Congress was lurching toward the shutdown of the U.S. government in an effort to strangle funding for implementing the law, not one red-faced congressional critic ever said Obamacare should be defunded because the website wasn't going to work.

Further evidence of the "h-word" comes from criticism heaped upon the plan in recent days by the same critics who, 30 days ago, said no one should sign up for it because it would ruin their lives, but who now blast the president and the plan because so few people have been able to sign up for it and ruin their lives.

Obamacare might very well turn out to be the catastrophe that its opponents say it would be once fully implemented. At this point, however, both its opponents and proponents probably would simply like the chance to find out.

Just as Wyoming is not immune to the problems of the federal website's malfunction, nor is our state spared the hypocrisy surrounding the Obamacare rollout. It is absurd to denounce the new law as a "government takeover of health care," as so many in the state are doing, when Wyoming has refused to set up its own health care exchange and instead has asked the federal government to do it for us.

Which is it, Wyoming? Do we not want the government to "take over" health care, or do we insist that the government run our health care exchange for us -- and then criticize it? We can't have it both ways.

By every measure, the experts say Wyoming's would be an easy health care exchange to create and manage because there are so few people in the state and so few health insurance providers. The repeated justification that the federal government "can't be trusted" to fund the exchange as time goes on rings tinny when we have refused to do the job ourselves and have decided to entrust the government with the whole thing.

Now, however, there is a gradual change of heart appearing among some of our state's leaders. Wyoming has decided to assemble an official study group to re-evaluate the pros and cons of doing this ourselves instead of putting our state's citizens adrift in the huge federal quagmire. One of this new group's public meetings comes next week in Lander.

Surely by now no one could question Wyoming's red-state credibility on the national stage. That point has been well-made long ago. Now our state ought to do what it can to see to it that more people have affordable, reliable, health insurance.

On this point, we can have it both ways. We can set up our own expanded Medicaid program, establish our own health insurance exchange on the grounds that the federal government has screwed this up. This is the chance that we have. This is the chance for Wyoming to be better than the national system so many of us claim to despise. And this is the chance for Wyoming to demonstrate that it can rise above the petty and counterproductive rhetoric of attack, blame, and negativity that doesn't help anyone get health insurance.

Above all, the HealthCare.gov website breakdown is a perfect opportunity for Wyoming to rub the federal government's nose in it, to demonstrate to the nation and to our own citizens that we can do it better than the feds can when it comes to providing access to more affordable, more obtainable health insurance for our citizens.

That chance is waiting, ripe on the tree. To leave it unplucked defies logic.

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