Mead would sue over health care
GOP candidate for governor says action would not cost $2 million.
By Cara Rank, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
October 20, 2010
Republican Matt Mead said if he’s elected governor, he would challenge the federal health care program and would solve Wyoming’s problems by encouraging new programs and personal responsibility.
Mead stopped in Jackson to attend an election forum sponsored by the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club on Tuesday. His opponent, Wilson Democrat Leslie Petersen, will address the group at noon Tuesday at Snow King; She was unable to make this week’s forum.
While addressing a host of issues, Mead spent the most time discussing the federal health care program and how Wyoming can get residents off Medicaid.
“We got into this situation because Wyoming, as a state, was not proactive enough, as were most states, in addressing health care concerns,” Mead said of the national health care reform program. “So the federal government stepped in. Looking back, we should have done more.”
Mead, 48, is the grandson of former Wyoming governor and senator Cliff Hansen. The Cheyenne rancher and attorney was born in Teton County.
Among his top issues for office is addressing the reform and health care problems in the state, which include lack of providers and inability to find coverage, he said.
If Mead is elected, Wyoming likely would join 20 other states in a lawsuit.
“You may like it or not,” he said. “If it’s unconstitutional, it’s unconstitutional.”
While a Michigan judge threw out a lawsuit, a Florida judge ruled last week that it could go to court, Mead said.
The primary question is whether forcing people to get health insurance or pay a fine is legal under interstate commerce laws.
“Can we also force you to buy new boots?” Mead said. “Can we force you to buy a new car?”
A Mississippi study shows expenses will increase $1.6 billion with the reform, he said. In Wyoming, Medicaid roles are expected to increase from 25,000 to 30,000 people by 2014, he said.
“[The legislation] was designed to lower costs and provide better health care,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to do either.”
While a state legislative committee has a draft bill that proposes setting aside $2 million for Wyoming to join the lawsuit, Mead said that sum likely is high.
“I don’t think it’s going to be needed,” he said.
Wyoming can solve its own health care problems without joining the national plan, Mead said.
He pointed to a pilot project for which the state allocated $750,000 to provide health savings accounts to 500 individuals. Wyoming needs an opportunity to develop that plan, he said.
But when asked how someone with a health savings account could afford a $10,000 operation, Mead did not answer.
Instead, he said part of the solution to the health care crisis is to require “everyone to have some skin in the game,” he said.
“Free health care leads to abuses,” he said.
Mead said he wants to focus on wellness programs. Another priority would be only allowing people to get Medicaid benefits if they are eligible. The Department of Family Services is “tired of people pulling up in their F350 pickup and getting Medicaid,” Mead said.
If Mead is elected, other top issues would be jobs, the economy and energy.
Diversifying the economy is integral, he said. One way to do that is using the abundance of low-cost electricity.
“There’s no reason why Wyoming should not be the data center hub of the country,” he said.
If Wyoming is viewed as a high-tech state, young professionals and businesses may relocate here, he said.
“We want to send the message that if you’re sitting in downtown Chicago or downtown Douglas, you have the same capacity to run your high-tech business,” Mead said.
Energy resources, supercomputers and data centers, among others, are the future, he said.
Energy also is important, he said.
“We don’t want to keep shipping our energy out,” he said.
Energy needs to be a “big player” in Wyoming’s future, he said, and the conflict between energy and wildlife is outdated.
“Neither one of them do we want to get rid of,” Mead said. “Both of them can be players.”
Meanwhile, tourism and agriculture also are important, he said.