So many discussions of Medicaid expansion are so narrow. They’re about the personal or the professional, they tackle either economics or healthcare. But when we talk in narrow categories, we miss the bigger picture. We miss the chance to see how expanding Medicaid is an investment in Wyoming’s people. It’s an investment that makes our families and businesses and communities stronger.
I say this as someone whose business, employees, and family would all benefit from expanding the Medicaid health insurance program to close the coverage gap.
The truth is, we all know someone who could benefit. We all know people who are working full-time but don’t have access to health insurance. We all know people who are one cancer diagnosis or car accident away from catastrophe.
I work in the home healthcare field. That gives me an expansive vantage point to see how different people would benefit. In home health, we come into people’s lives at a time when they need help the most. They’re anxious to get home. Their families are anxious to have them home. And our team is here for them in that moment.
But healthcare isn’t available to everyone. Some people in Wyoming fall into the coverage gap. That gap only exists because our state hasn’t expanded Medicaid.
The coverage gap is something that we don’t talk about nearly enough. Some people already qualify for Medicaid and those people have insurance. Some people can access health insurance through their job or through the marketplace, and those people also have insurance. But there are tens of thousands of people in Wyoming right now who fall into the coverage gap — they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid (about $17,000), but they don’t have health insurance through work and aren’t allowed to buy their own coverage on the marketplace.
Those are the people who, through no fault of their own, can’t get health insurance. Which means they can’t get healthcare when they need it.
We are too rural and remote a state — and we depend on each other too much in our communities — to pretend that it is OK for some people to fall into the coverage gap. That gap — which, again, means people going without healthcare — strains the system. If you don’t already qualify for a Medicaid waiver, if you aren’t a veteran, if you aren’t on Medicare, and can’t access private insurance through work or the marketplace, that puts a greater strain on the other areas of care along the continuum. If we didn’t have a coverage gap, we wouldn’t be stressing our system nearly as much.
I also see the impacts of this system strain and coverage gap in my own family.
My family, my wife, my seven-month-old — we are here in Wyoming. We live and work in Casper. My mom, however, can’t be here because she has cancer. The care she needs wouldn’t be available to her in a state like Wyoming that hasn’t expanded Medicaid.
It would be better for all of us, especially my mom, if I could drive down the street and see her, check on her in person, help advocate for her care. Instead, we trudge along — separated by thousands of miles — and do what we need to. We coordinate to the extent that we can from a distance. It breaks my heart that I can’t care for my mom in whatever time she has left the way she cared for me my entire life.
Our family wants to be together.
Simple policy decisions are keeping families — families like those that we serve in home health and families like my own — from being together, being healthy, and returning to their homes and communities to contribute like they want to.
Expanding Medicaid is a necessary, humane, and smart investment in Wyoming businesses, Wyoming communities, and Wyoming families.
Matthew Snyder is a Casper resident is a husband to a Wyoming native and father to a seven-month-old son. He works as the Agency Manager for a home health care company branch in Casper called Humble Horizon Home Health Care and is a trained lawyer.