A local lawmaker is taking another swing at Medicaid expansion, which would grant healthcare to a swath of low-income Wyomingites but has fallen on deaf ears at the Wyoming Legislature in recent years.
Opponents say that even though the federal government is footing the bill now for the nation’s public health insurance program for people with low income, the state could end up paying later.
Rep. Andy Schwartz’s flagship bill, introduced today, would extend Medicaid eligibility to anyone earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Medicaid advocates have called the move a “no-brainer” way to ensure coverage for a more residents. The Wyoming Department of Health has estimated if the state expanded Medicaid, roughly 20,000 people could qualify for care. But since Wyoming has not expanded Medicaid, parents in a family of three have an eligibility limit at 55 percent of the poverty level. For an individual the limit is 0 percent of the poverty level.
“This has been studied and discussed at length,” Schwartz said. “It it time to proceed with enactment.”
Schwartz’s co-sponsors include fellow Teton County Rep. Jim Roscoe, an independent, and Sen. Chris Rothfuss (D-Albany) as well as two Republicans: Sen. R.J. Kost (R-Big Horn/Park) and Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R-Laramie).
Following a June 2012 Supreme Court decision, states faced a decision about whether to adopt a Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, extending coverage to most low-income adults to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. There is no deadline for states to implement the expansion.
Wyoming is one of 14 states that haven’t expanded Medicaid, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, and is now nearly surrounded by states that have expanded or are expanding Medicaid. In November’s election voters in the traditionally conservative states of Idaho, Utah and Nebraska approved ballot initiatives to expand the health insurance program to an estimated 363,000 low-income people.