budget

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead: Medicaid expansion decision not political

2013-12-10T07:00:00Z 2013-12-10T12:18:29Z Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead: Medicaid expansion decision not politicalBy JOAN BARRON Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

CHEYENNE — The two Democrats on the state Legislature's 12-member Joint Appropriations Committee questioned on Monday Gov. Matt Mead's recommendation against expanding the Medicaid program to cover about 16,000 uninsured residents.

The governor, a Republican nearing the last year of his first term in office, said his decision was not political, but was instead pragmatic.

Mead made the comment during an explanation to the committee of his recommended $3.3 billion budget for the two-year budget period that begins July 1.

He said he is convinced the Affordable Care Act -- often known as Obamacare -- is not the solution to the state's problem of uninsured citizens.

Mead noted the state joined other states in unsuccessfully challenging the constitutionality of the health care reform law. The U.S. Supreme Court largely upheld the law.

Sen. John Hastert, D-Rock Springs, said a state Department of Health report said the Medicaid expansion could save the state money.

Hastert said that he also was disappointed with the rollout of the bulky health care exchanges created under the new law, but pointed out the exchanges are separate from Medicaid.

Mead said there is a performance issue with government delays of pieces of the program without legislation or debate.

The program is based on the premise that young, healthy people will sign up, but that's not happening, he said.

He also questioned whether the federal government will follow through with its financial promises.

Hastert said Wyoming gets millions of dollars a year in federal money.

Mead countered by pointing out the reduction to the state of federal AML money and sequestration that delayed the opening of Yellowstone National Park to tourists.

Rep. Ken Esquibel, D-Cheyenne, said that during a recent national legislative meeting lawmakers from other states said they are having success with the health care law.

Esquibel said he hoped Mead would work with the governors of other states to find a solution.

Mead said he agrees there is a need and promised to keep an open mind. The governors of Wisconsin and Arkansas are looking at hybrid plans, he said.

Also on Monday, the governor told the lawmakers his top budget priorities are aid to local governments and pay raises for state employees.

Mead presented his proposed $3.33 billion general fund budget for the coming two-year biennium beginning July 1, 2014.

He said the budget is conservative and represents an increase over the $3.31 billion current budget partly because it includes pay raises for state government, University of Wyoming and community college employees.

He is asking for $50 million for a 5 percent pay raise for state government and University of Wyoming employees for the two-year budget period.

His recommendation for the community colleges is a 2 percent-per-year pay raise for the two-year budget period. The amount is less than for state employees because some community colleges have granted pay raises in recent years.

The state employees, though, have not had a general pay raise for four years and their base pay is down slightly; their numbers have decreased by 225 and turnover is up.

"We are asking fewer people to do more," Mead said.

Some committee members talked of placing a cap on the amount or raises allowed for the highest paid employees, for example those earning $100,000 or more.

Mead said he would like some of the pay raise money tied to employee performance.

He is asking for $175 million for cities, towns and counties, up from $135 million in the current two-year budget period.

Mead said the locals spent the $135 million wisely.

If every community in the state is strong, the state of Wyoming is also strong, he said.

"Local government is where hard decisions are made, what potholes to fill, how to take care of businesses, how to make the machinery run and I think they have done an extraordinary job," Mead said.

The governor is recommending that 40 percent of the money be spent for infrastructure and 60 percent for operations. But he told the committee members he would not object to reversing the percentage so that 60 percent would go to infrastructure.

The governor and at least one JAC member disagree somewhat on the spending-versus-savings question.

Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, the committee co-chairman, said the state needs to save more money in the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund to boost interest income.

Mead said the state is playing world markets with those investments. Those markets nose-dived a few years ago.

Mead noted that the Legislative Stabilization and Reserve Account had a balance of about $900 million when he took office in 2011. The fund balance now totals $1.7 billion, he said.

He said that while the state needs to continue to save money, one way is to invest in the state's infrastructure needs.

Contact Joan Barron at 307-632-1244 or joan.barron@trib.com.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(19) Comments

  1. Feste
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    Feste - December 12, 2013 8:14 pm
    If Governor Mead was a true conservative he would admit not expanding Medicaid in the state is going to cost us three ways. One we are paying for Medicaid through our federal taxes but not getting the benefits of it. Two, when some of those 16,000 people show up in the emergency rooms sick or injured they will still have to be treated but have no way of paying their medical bills increasing the costs for all the rest of us. And three, it might result in hospitals taking huge losses or even closing because the federal government will no longer reimburse them for indignant care. Because after all under the ACA the Medicaid expansion was supposed to eliminate that need. So political or not expanding Medicaid is going to cost all of us.
  2. wyobarney
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    wyobarney - December 11, 2013 4:50 pm
    Wyoming already provides medical care to the uninsured. Our hospitals lose $200,000,000 a year because of the uninsured. About time we recoup some loses.
  3. WyomingCowboy82435
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    WyomingCowboy82435 - December 11, 2013 11:33 am
    Political? Sure it is. State Employee's will give Gov. Mead the election if he gives them a raise.
  4. Pioneerpete
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    Pioneerpete - December 11, 2013 10:04 am
    Wyoite, if the federal government is insolvent, do you have any suggestions as to how Wyoming is going to pick up the fed share of highway funding? grants to put the highway patrol on the road after hours and on holdiays? all sorts of items upon which the University of Wyoming depends? keeping the national parks and monuments open for tourists? Your claims are about as wobbly as those of the Governor. If you or the Governor were into "economics" for your justification, would you listen to the Department of Health? Hospitals that are teetering on the edge of fiscal disaster?
  5. Kool Kat
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    Kool Kat - December 11, 2013 9:49 am
    Attn side, my comments regarding socialists (as yourself) were not intended to be funny. Welcome to the reality of socialism, a socialist law that doesn't work, nor popular now that its here.
    The costs are overwhelming and so staggering, that the law can not get off the ground, just as architect Sen Bachus(D) of Montana said it wouldn't. Absolutely nothing funny about 6 million people added to the list of uninsured in this nation side Obamacare came into effect.
    So, stuff those facts where you really don't care to know ... in your mind.
  6. Pops
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    Pops - December 11, 2013 9:27 am
    Not a political decision. The timing and the language indicate political grand standing. We've been down this dusty trail many times in Wyoming.
  7. strool35
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    strool35 - December 11, 2013 8:50 am
    Governor Mead is totally correct, the federal government will get all they can on board for that PO S obamacare and then dump it on the states. You can tell by the posts on this site that there are plenty of left wingers that think everything is free or they expect someone else to pay for it for them. They also post false information either on purpose of from lack of intelligence, hard to tell which.
  8. Dewd
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    Dewd - December 11, 2013 8:32 am
    Anyone who believes that Mead's hardcore stance against Medicaid expansion is "not political" must also believe that Elvis and John Wayne are routinely sighted drinking at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar in Jackson Hole.

    I guess Mead's pragmatism and vast financial savvy failed to grasp that he just jacked up private insurance premiums for most if not all of Wyoming's residents who have existing insurance ; dumped more marginally insured Wyoming folks over the side as the for-profit insurors callously cancel their policies no matter how long they've paid regularly in good faith ; tightened the jackscrews on the entirety of Wyoming medical service while further condemning the growing numbers of uninsured to sap the system thru no real fault of their own ;ad absurdum.

    Oh by the way Matt---did anyone get it thru your hard bald head that Wyoming folks and Wyoming business payroll checks are still paying into Medicaid for the rest of the country ? ---that Wyoming folks will be denied Medicaid expansion but still help pay for the rest of the nation's Medicaid regardless ?

    The 21 states that have denied Medicaid expansion as Wyoming has ( or soon will ) are almost entirely " Red" states... and they almost ALL recieved more federal dollars back in services and funding than they pay in taxes. These states are leachers; takers; hypocritical. They are subsidized by the progressive Blue states.

    None more than Wyoming. Your decision to deny Medicaid expansion is most certainly political, Matt. It demonstrates to the rest of the nation how socially regressive and/or stupid a Wyoming conservative can be, once again.
  9. Wyoite
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    Wyoite - December 10, 2013 8:02 pm
    Essentially- the Feds have asked our State to co-sign on a billion dollar commitment which they are going to default on. So glad Mead sees right through this.
  10. side oiler
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    side oiler - December 10, 2013 7:59 pm
    You can stuff the socialist pablum,kat,it aint funny anymore.
  11. Wyoite
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    Wyoite - December 10, 2013 7:54 pm
    Clovez- why is it the government's job to provide individuals insurance? Why do people feel that it is an entitlement?
  12. Kool Kat
    Report Abuse
    Kool Kat - December 10, 2013 5:04 pm
    Attn what, Obamacare covers all states, what's so confusing about that?
    What's so confusing about less than 50,000 premium holders as verses 7 million needed, NY or Wyoming? As I know you're a socialist wanting other to pay and meet your needs.
  13. whatever
    Report Abuse
    whatever - December 10, 2013 4:32 pm
    Attn. KK, once again you demonstrate that you live in a state of perpetual confusion. you are referring to healthcare.gov. Martha D. is referring to New York's own exchange. but don't take my word for it;
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/12/09/new-york-health-care-exchange/3921565/
  14. Wyoite
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    Wyoite - December 10, 2013 3:57 pm
    Mead is right about this. It has less to do with politics, its economics.

    We simply should not and cannot rely on the Federal Govt and future funding therefrom. The Federal Govt is insolvent.
  15. Clovez
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    Clovez - December 10, 2013 12:27 pm
    Well said, rd ric.
  16. Clovez
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    Clovez - December 10, 2013 12:25 pm
    Wyoming Reps say the ACA is not the solution for Wyomingites w/o insurance coverage. But offer absolutely no alternative solution. They do nothing, they say nothing. It's pathetic. We hire these so called educated people to solve problems..and the only thing they can come up with in this situation is to spend millions on a lawsuit (that will fail) so that they can be allowed to do nothing at all. Wth???!!!
  17. Kool Kat
    Report Abuse
    Kool Kat - December 10, 2013 9:43 am
    Attn MarthaD, the stats are in error as only 50k account per day can logon since Nov 29, 2013. The last estimate is that 50 thousand have signed up but not as paid customers, as premiums and exchanges remain non-functioning. As Wyoming will not take part in the "single payer" system, which I don't blame the Governor for that.
  18. dd ric
    Report Abuse
    dd ric - December 10, 2013 9:11 am
    It's evident the Gov. doesn't know what that word "pragmatic" means. It means realistic,or logical,or sensible,Matt. From day one of the ACA you've been following your (R) heroes in other states because you're incapable of creating a state insurance exchange,or jobs,for that matter. So,....realistically, why does Wyoming have an "insurance commissioner"???? ddric
  19. MarthaD
    Report Abuse
    MarthaD - December 10, 2013 7:17 am
    Senator Hastert - According to the NY Post, 1.6 million people have signed up for health insurance through the Exchange - 1.46 million of them qualified for, and were enrolled in, Medicaid by the Exchange.
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