Local lawmakers weigh in on Medicaid expansion; proposal will not advance

    Another attempt to expand Medicaid in Wyoming has failed to pass the state legislature.

    The Wyoming House of Representatives did not hear House Bill 80 before the Monday deadline for consideration by the Committee of the Whole in the house of origin.

    Committee debate

    The House Revenue Committee had advanced the legislation to the floor last month in a 6-3 vote, with Wyoming Rep. Ember Oakley, R-Riverton, supporting the bill.


    “This is an important topic,” Oakley said during the committee meeting. “It’s an emotional one. But on balance, I’m an aye vote.”

    She pointed out that Medicaid expansion would bring almost $90 million in federal funds to the state each year at an annual cost of about $11 million to Wyoming.

    “It’s actually almost shocking,” Oakley said. “It’s almost a pittance from Wyoming.”

    She also noted that she has received “hundreds and hundreds of emails” from constituents, with the “vast majority” supporting Medicaid expansion.


    “I think it is the will of the people that Medicaid expansion pass,” Oakley said. “I think it’s the right thing to do.”

    Other options

    Wyoming Rep. Sarah Penn, R-Lander, spoke against the Medicaid expansion bill during the committee meeting, urging the state to find alternative ways to address the issues that exist within Wyoming’s healthcare system.

    “People are saying (that) we have a problem, and I’m not disagreeing with that,” Penn said. “We have a problem that we need to fix, (but) there are other options besides Medicaid expansion.”


    The federal Medicaid program comes with a “pitiful” reimbursement rate that is “crippling our system” because it doesn’t cover the cost of healthcare delivery, Penn said.

    Medicaid is also “difficult to work with,” she continued, creating an “additional administrative burden” for healthcare professionals who end up “haggling” for their reimbursements – or they “stop accepting Medicaid” altogether.

    “We’re trying (to) increase access to medical care, and this does not allow for that,” she said. “It does not increase access.”


    Penn was also skeptical about the federal funding attached to Medicaid expansion, reminding the committee that those are “still tax dollars … coming out of the pockets of the people.”

    Those federal dollars also come with “strings” attached that can “block” the state from taking certain actions, Penn said.

    “We don’t want government in our business,” she said.  “We cannot be enticed to allow this into our state. … A government solution to a government-created problem is not the answer.”


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