A legislative proposal that would extend postpartum Medicaid coverage in Wyoming to a 12-month period – up from two months – has made it through the Wyoming House of Representatives.
House Bill 4 was received for introduction in the Wyoming Senate on Thursday.
About 20 members of the Wyoming House participated in the debate on the bill when it came up on the floor this week, including several from Fremont County.
Wyoming Rep. Sarah Penn, R-Lander, started off the discussion by speaking against HB 4, which she referred to as an unnecessary “expansion” of the federal Medicaid program.
“There are other programs available to these women,” Penn said. “It seems that some people are thinking if we don’t pass this extension these women will be completely without options for health care. (But) there are still options available.”
Wyoming Rep. Pepper Ottman, R-Riverton, echoed Penn’s statement about alternative health insurance programs for postpartum parents.
“Wyoming is very good about taking care of our people,” Ottman said. “So I believe really that the question is: Do we need to sign onto this because nobody’s getting any help, or is the help there, and we don’t need to do this?”
Wyoming Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, spoke in favor of the bill during the debate, pointing to a recorded decrease in emergency room visits among new parents whose Medicaid coverage has remained in place during the COVID-19 pandemic due to federal rules barring their removal.
That decrease in ER visits “has really reduced impacts back to hospitals,” Larsen said, with new parents using their extended Medicaid benefits to access ongoing care from their regular physicians instead.
“There’s very strong feelings on both sides of this issue,” Larsen acknowledged as he concluded his comments. “Really, it comes down to: Are we expanding the role of government in an appropriate way?”
HB 4 passed the House in a 34-28 vote on third reading Wednesday, with Larsen and Wyoming Rep. Ember Oakley, R-Riverton, voting “aye” and Ottman, Penn, and Wyoming Rep. John Winter, R-Thermopolis, voting “no.”
The legislation must be approved on three readings in the Senate before it goes to Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon’s office for review.