‘Let’s just get this done’: Wyoming Legislature to consider Medicaid expansion again in 2023

Medicaid expansion will be up for debate once again when the Wyoming Legislature convenes for its 67th session in January.

The legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee voted to advance the Medical Treatment Opportunity Act to the legislative session during a meeting this month.

It’s the same bill the legislature considered during the 2022 session, state staffers said.

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Federal contribution

The proposed legislation would allow Medicaid expansion to occur in Wyoming as long as the federal contribution to the program remains at 90 percent or higher.

That 90 percent contribution would bring about $177 million to the state, according to the Wyoming Department of Health – plus, the American Rescue Plan Act offers an incentive for Medicaid expansion that would bring in an extra $54 million.

“Combine that with the $22 million biennial cost (to the state for Medicaid expansion) and it would be a net savings to the state of $32 million,” WDH director Stefan Johansson said.

The savings just from the incentive alone could be used to cover the state’s Medicaid expansion costs for another two years, Wyoming Hospital Association vice president Josh Hannes pointed out.

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Expanded coverage

The WDH estimates that Medicaid expansion would allow about 19,000 additional Wyoming residents to be eligible for health insurance through the federal program.

That increase in health insurance coverage would cut down on the amount of uncompensated care Wyoming hospitals currently deliver – at a loss of about $120 million per year, Hannes said.

Montana Rep. Edward Buttrey, R-Great Falls, said hospitals in his state saw a 50 percent decrease in uncompensated care after Medicaid expansion passed there.

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Montana also measured a 6 to 9 percent increase in workforce participation among the population that benefited from Medicaid expansion, Buttrey said, along with a 5 percent annual increase in overall health.

Economic activity increased statewide as well, he continued, resulting in an extra $43-46 million in state revenue each year – more than half the annual cost Montana pays for Medicaid expansion.

Considering all of the economic impacts combined, Buttrey said, “we have more than paid for the state share of costs of Medicaid expansion.”

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“It has been a positive impact to the state,” he said. “It’s been good for the mental, physical and financial health of the participants, and it’s certainly saved our rural hospitals.”

‘We need to do this’

Wyoming Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, said he was “glad” the Revenue Committee was considering Medicaid expansion again this year.

“Medicaid expansion will help people do better, (and) the financial incentives are incredible,” he said. “We need to do this.”

Case formerly opposed Medicaid expansion, but he said his perspective has evolved over the years, and now he supports the move, joining the ranks of the majority of Wyoming medical professionals, employers, business owners, residents and Republicans.

“Let’s just get this done,” Case said. “I’m ready.”

Wyoming Sen. Wendy Schuler, R-Evanston, said the last Medicaid expansion poll she looked at showed “about 70 percent of Wyomingites support this.”

“That should matter to us,” she said. “We’re here to serve our constituents.”

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