Make Medicaid Fit for Wyoming

2013-09-16T05:00:00Z Make Medicaid Fit for WyomingCASPER STAR-TRIBUNE EDITORIAL BOARD Casper Star-Tribune Online
September 16, 2013 5:00 am  • 

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.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(5) Comments

  1. Jessiegrl
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    Jessiegrl - October 05, 2013 6:26 pm
    The other side of not voting for some kind of expansion is there is a penalty to the residents if the state opts out. If you are below 100% of the federal poverty level you are not eligible for any other government discounts or subsidies. I am a working college student with 3 kids, my husband is disabled and we are currently at 87% FPL. What this would look like for my family is close to $400 a month in premiums. We are barely scraping by as it is, this would be devastating. The current income limit for Medicaid in Wyoming for a family of 5 is $759. The only way that is feasible is if you are receiving state assistance any way.I am not promoting sitting at home and getting everything handed to you, but a lot of people work hard and sometimes its just not enough. I wish the people making these decisions for us knew what it was like to struggle.
  2. lllggg
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    lllggg - September 21, 2013 5:39 pm
    Compassion is not socialism.
  3. Wyoming MD
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    Wyoming MD - September 21, 2013 10:17 am
    Scott would rather have people live sick, under a bridge, to get rid of them.
  4. stickalose
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    stickalose - September 17, 2013 8:30 am
    Agreed. I've never understood Scotts' logic; extending it, shouldn't he be trying to get everybody off Social Security and have Wyoming divest all US Govt securities in it's portfolio? Does he look tired to you?
  5. dd ric
    Report Abuse
    dd ric - September 17, 2013 6:21 am
    Editors,good write,only to fall on deaf Legislature ears. You peg it,it's about what they want.not about what the people need. And we know whose lead gets followed here. ddric
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