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Larry Hicks

Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs, talks to a fellow senator before at the Wyoming Legislature on Feb. 20. His bill instituting a work requirement for some Medicaid recipients died Tuesday in the House.

Josh Galemore, Star-Tribune

A bill that would have instituted a work requirement for some Wyoming Medicaid recipients died Tuesday in the House.

The bill sailed through the Senate before arriving in the House last week. An identical measure previously proposed in the House swiftly died in mid-February. On Tuesday, the House’s labor committee failed to move the Senate version forward, with four representatives voting for and against the amendment. A ninth lawmaker, Rep. Scott Clem, was absent.

The measure would’ve required up to 3,500 Wyoming Medicaid recipients to participate weekly in work, schooling or volunteer programs. Its Senate sponsor, Sen. Larry Hicks, said it was aimed at able-bodied adults who were capable of working.

But critics of the bill, including the Wyoming Hospital Association, said it was targeting impoverished single mothers. Dr. Andy Dunn, who runs Wyoming Medical Center’s primary care clinics, called work requirements “disgusting” and said they stereotyped Medicaid recipients.

The debate over the work requirements tended to lead to Medicaid expansion, a move that the Wyoming Legislature has repeatedly and overwhelmingly rejected. Eric Boley, the president of the hospital association, said work requirements made more sense in states that had expanded the program and thus had more able-bodied adults enrolled.

But in Wyoming, the bar to qualify for Medicaid is higher. Sen. Chris Rothfuss, a Laramie Democrat who voted against the bill as it moved through the Senate, told his fellow lawmakers that the people who would be affected by the work requirements earn less than 56 percent of the federal poverty line.

He said those people would likely already be looking for jobs while also raising children. He also tried to steer the debate back toward Medicaid expansion but, as his time wound down, was shut down by Senate President Eli Bebout.

Sen. Charles Scott, a Casper Republican and supporter of the bill, said the bill would have targeted and helped the very people Rothfuss mentioned.

Follow education reporter Seth Klamann on Twitter @SethKlamann


Education and Health Reporter

Seth Klamann joined the Star-Tribune in 2016 and covers education and health. A 2015 graduate of the University of Missouri and proud Kansas City native, Seth worked for newspapers in Milwaukee and Omaha before coming to Casper.

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