LANDER -- State lawmakers are debating three approaches for potentially expanding Medicaid, but won’t settle on an option until January.
All three models would result in health coverage for thousands of uninsured adults in Wyoming. They could also save money by allowing the state to spend less on other health programs.
One approach, recommended by the Wyoming Department of Health, would expand through the development of Medicaid Fit -- described as a middle ground between private insurance and the traditional program. It would offer more limited benefits, while making recipients share in the cost of their care.
Gov. Matt Mead has called Medicaid Fit the best option should Wyoming lawmakers choose to expand the program, which covers the poor and medically needy. But two lawmakers who head the health committee are each supporting their own approaches.
Rep. Elaine Harvey, R-Lovell, wants to pursue the so-called Arkansas model for Medicaid expansion. It would use Medicaid dollars to buy private insurance for people with low-incomes.
Sen. Charlie Scott is pushing another bill based on the Arkansas approach, but his includes requirement that recipients work and contribute to the cost of their care.
Even if the committee eventually settles on a model, there’s no guarantee it can convince the full Legislature to enact it. During its last session, the Legislature rejected the version of Medicaid expansion laid out in the Affordable Care Act.
Growing the program would have saved the state $47 million by allow it to reduce spending on its own programs, according to one study. But lawmakers were skeptical that federal officials would keep their promise to fund nearly all of the expansion.
In the aftermath, Mead tasked the Health Department with studying alternative expansion models that might be better suited for Wyoming. The study culminated in an August report that recommended Medicaid Fit as the best of five options. The Health Department ranked the Arkansas approach fourth, noting it would be more expensive than using traditional Medicaid to cover the expansion population.