Last February, I followed Wyoming’s legislative session with great hopes that we would finally pass the Medicaid Expansion bill. After all, the bill passed 8-5 in committee last fall. Alas, the bill failed on the House floor. A mere few weeks later, our world was turned upside-down. The global coronavirus pandemic and economic meltdown merged with a plummeting oil price due to a conflict between Russia and Saudi Arabia, resulting in elimination of all the work on Wyoming’s biennial budget. With coal, oil and gas prices at historic low, we need to adjust fast.
The $1.25 Billion Wyoming received through the CARES Act will help address some of our needs, but to avert a potential bankruptcy we require more assistance. Back in November, nearly 54,000 Wyomingites (10 percent of the state population) were enrolled in Medicaid and the Children Health Insurance Program. An additional 19,000 would have been eligible under an expanded program. While some people are able to obtain health insurance through the federal exchanges of the Affordable Care Act, there are 6,000 Wyomingites left without access to insurance at all. Leaving people uninsured during this pandemic, in which some people suffer lasting heart and kidney damage, is unconscionable.
In addition, by refusing to expand Medicaid, Wyoming is expected to lose $1.3 billion over the next decade -- money that can cover uncompensated medical costs for the state and support our rural hospitals during this crisis. Previous attempts to pass Medicaid expansion have failed because the legislature was unwilling to provide the required state matching funds (just 10 percent of total), against the will of the majority of Wyomingites. For those who fear that the federal allocation may not last, Congress just showed us they would come through in times of need.
In the last two months, we have learned that life can change on a dime. We can choose to sit idly by, or we can embrace good opportunities. I join those supportive state lawmakers and former Governor Mead in calling for a yes vote on Medicaid Expansion during the Wyoming upcoming special legislative session.
MERAV BEN-DAVID, Laramie
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