Wyoming lawmakers: OK, point made. We know: You don’t like Obamacare. We understand the Democrat president is wildly unpopular here in Wyoming.
But here’s something that is popular — taking care of our neighbors and making sure our local (let’s say that again, “local”) hospitals don’t fail.
For more than two years lawmakers have been stubbornly and steadfastly refusing to find a solution to the nearly 20,000 Wyoming residents who would be left without insurance without some sort of change. Many states have opted for the federally funded Medicaid expansion. This expansion of the program would, by the Wyoming Department of Health’s own admission, save the state millions.
Instead, lawmakers have frightened themselves into believing the federal bogeyman tale that the federal government will go bust and suddenly these 17,000 residents will be left — ironically in the same position they are now — without insurance.
Lawmakers, like Casper’s own Sen. Charles Scott, has worried that the federal government won’t be able to pay, but somehow isn’t worried about accepting federal money for education or highway funding. In other words, the Legislature hasn’t closed schools or refused to pave roads just because federal money is part of the equation.
And that’s how you can tell that lawmakers’ refusal to accept the expansion is nothing more than political pandering. We say that because this isn’t some political debate with no consequences. Instead, this is about thousands of our neighbors who need the help, but may not get it because local lawmakers mistakenly believe that their little refusal has somehow sent a message to the feds. Indeed, their message may be well received by people who would have already voted for them, but it’s a disservice to those who need coverage and the health care centers which will be forced to write off millions because lawmakers were looking to score political points.
Now, Department of Health Director Tom Forslund has discovered a new model, “Medicaid Fit,” which is a slimmed-down version that is a closer analog to private insurance. This new system would continue to save money and reach those who are currently uninsured. In other words, Medicaid Fit seems like a great fit for Wyoming. The program may not be as robust, but that means if the federal government were to back out, the state would not be left in such a difficult position.
Hopefully, this program would allow just enough wiggle room so that the lawmakers could save face with doctrinaire constituents, and also cover those who need the help — which should be lawmakers’ first loyalty.
Lawmakers should also remember that by not finding a solution, they are putting health care centers in their own communities at risk. More uninsured patients mean more uncompensated care. Hospitals and health care centers can only absorb so much. We have to wonder: Why wouldn’t lawmakers want to help even if the system is politically perfect?
We’ve heard all the problems with Obamacare and the federal government. We’ve heard the hopes that Wyoming will invent something better.
Now, it’s time for answers and solutions.
Years of griping about the problem doesn’t count toward solving it.