Penn votes ‘no’ on postpartum Medicaid extension; bill progresses to House floor

Wyoming Rep. Sarah Penn, R-Lander, has voted against a proposal to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage in Wyoming to a 12-month period – up from two months.

She explained her decision last week during a House Labor, Health and Social Services Committee meeting, predicting that she would “come under fire” for the vote from people “saying I’m not for women.”

“I’m for women,” Penn said, countering those potential claims. “I am a woman. I have children. I’ve been pregnant. I’ve been pregnant without insurance before.”

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Her experience has shown her that “women are strong,” Penn said – but she expressed concern that “if we create situations where there’s always a safety net where women don’t have to stand up and be strong, to show their strength, then the natural man in all of us falls back into that comfort and that safety net.”

‘Federal ties’

Even more concerning, Penn said, is that House Bill 4 would extend a program that “just further ties us to the federal government.”

“(With) those federal ties, we no longer have say in how we run our state and how we have our health care,” Penn said. “When they’re paying for it, they control what we get to do as providers, and it’s not OK. It’s not good. … It encroaches upon our liberties. (And) liberty, once lost, potentially is lost forever. It’s a difficult thing to get back.”

She suggested that, instead of extending Medicaid, Wyoming should “allow the free market to step up” and meet the needs of postpartum patients.

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“The free market is truly the best way to go about it,” Penn said. “That’s how costs come down. Looking to the federal government is how costs go up, and that’s not what we want for our state.”

The House Labor committee approved the postpartum Medicaid extension bill in a 5-4 vote, and the legislation passed the House Appropriations Committee unanimously.

HB 4 was placed on General File in the Wyoming House of Representatives this week.

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