Wyoming lawmakers are hearing more about the possibility that the state may yet choose to expand Medicaid.
The Wyoming Legislature earlier this year rejected roughly $50 million in federal funds to extend Medicaid health care coverage to an additional 17,600 low-income adults. Expanding Medicaid is a centerpiece of the federal Affordable Health Care Act, and the federal government has pledged to initially cover the cost of the optional expansion that lawmakers rejected.
Many state lawmakers said they didn't want to expand the federal program because they don't trust federal promises to continue to pay for it.
Gov. Matt Mead supported the Legislature's decision but directed the Wyoming Department of Health to continue studying the issue this year to be ready in case the Legislature reverses itself next year and decides to expand the program.
The state would still be in position to avail itself of the federal matching money if it changes course, Mead has said.
The Legislature's Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Interim Committee is meeting today in Casper to hear from Tom Forslund, director of the state health department, about the matter.
The medical program currently serves more than 77,000 people in Wyoming at an annual cost of more than $500 million, split evenly between the state and federal governments.
The state doesn't have any choice over adding some new participants to the program next year. Officials say the state will add roughly 10,600 new people, mainly newly eligible children and an estimated 3,700 people now eligible for the program who are expected to sign up only after a provision of the federal law requiring everyone to have health insurance takes effect.
The state health department has prepared studies that conclude that it would save money by expanding Medicaid.
The federal government has said it would pay 100 percent of the cost to fully extend the program for three years starting in January 2014. The financial support would be reduced after that.