A late proposal to amend the state constitution to expand Medicaid failed Friday afternoon, the second time in five days that lawmakers roundly rejected the program.
Casper Republican Rep. Pat Sweeney filed the bill Wednesday. It faced a tall order: It would’ve required two-thirds of the House and Senate to vote yes before being sent to Wyoming’s voters for approval. Early Friday evening, the House voted overwhelmingly — with 40 nos and 16 ayes — to end the effort for this session.
In testimony before the vote, Sweeney told his fellow lawmakers that he wanted to avoid what had happened in Idaho, Nebraska and Utah.
“What I don’t want us to get into is what our neighboring three states had in 2018 — not that long ago,” he said. “Ballot measures that they didn’t control. With this constitutional amendment, that’s what this is about.”
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He said that while the vote would eventually have ended up in front of the voters, the legislators could control the language and the breadth. His bill would’ve expanded Medicaid to include those making 138 percent of the federal poverty line, which is about $36,000 a year. That’s the standard language for expansion across the nation.
“Our voters sent us here to make these votes,” said Rep. Tyler Lindholm, a Sundance Republican, urging the House to reject the proposal. “That’s it. And if they don’t like our votes, then they’ll find someone else to do it.”
The failure of Sweeney’s bill comes just days after the House swiftly killed another bill that would’ve allowed Gov. Mark Gordon to study expansion and then decide whether to move forward with it, with the Legislature effectively having veto power.
Under the federal rules for expansion, the state would’ve paid 10 percent of the new costs going forward, while the federal government would pick up the remaining 90 percent. According to state projections, Wyoming would’ve paid $18 million vs. $136 million from the feds.