CASPER, Wyo – Supporters of a decade-long campaign to expand Medicaid coverage in Wyoming hope that a groundswell and new federal incentives will put the proposal above when it is presented again to the Wyoming legislature in February.
The House Revenue Committee is also expected to address the matter on Wednesday, September 29 at the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in Casper.
The Healthy Wyoming group held vigils across the state on Friday to raise awareness of planned savings for the expanding state and share stories of people who have suffered and died without healthcare.
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The Casper contingent gathered at the Nicolaysen Art Museum on Friday to hear from healthcare providers, lawmakers and those directly affected by the issue.
“This problem is a matter of life and death,” Wyoming health advocate Andrew Schneider said in his remarks. He said that people who cannot afford to go to the doctor allow chronic illnesses, including mental illnesses, to “linger and get worse.” They also ignore cancer screenings and other preventative measures, and cannot budget for both prescriptions and food.
Since the Affordable Care Act of 2010, 90% of the cost of the expansion would be paid by the federal government and Wyoming would pay 10%.
The Wyoming Department of Health estimates that the expanded coverage would cover approximately 24,000 (between 13,000 and 38,000) residents and save the state $ 34 million in the first biennium.
Most of them are women, Schneider said, “especially young single mothers.” Others are just under retirement age and not yet eligible for Medicare. Some have one or more low-paying jobs with no benefits, even earning $ 15 an hour.
WDH estimates that 60% of the people who would benefit from an expansion are currently employed.
The House Income Committee bill, which did not advance in the last session, would increase Medicaid coverage for those with incomes 100% of the federal poverty line at 138%. Currently, people who earn $ 17,000 a year are earning too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to effectively get a plan on the market.
We call it “the gap,” said Schneider.
“The gap only exists because our state has not extended Medicaid,”
said Matthew Snyder, agency director for Humble Horizon Home Health and advocate for the elderly.
“It puts more pressure on other areas of care along the continuum. “
Hospitals are responsible for some of the costs of uninsured patients, paying more than $ 100 million a year in the state, Schneider told Oil City on Friday, resulting in more expensive procedures and higher premiums insurance.
Snyder said everyone knows someone who is affected by the problem, including himself.
He said he was heartbroken that his own mother, a cancer patient living in Florida, couldn’t get coverage in Wyoming, where she could be closer to family.
“Simple political decisions prevent families like the ones we serve in home health and families like mine from being together, from being healthy and from returning to their homes and communities to contribute as they want it. ”
Linda John spoke about her friend and neighbor, Earl, who died three years ago. She said Earl worked a steady job at Walmart until he slipped on the ice and injured his knee, and lost his job while recovering.
Without insurance, he couldn’t make a full recovery, became afflicted with gout, and sold a beloved Camero to pay his bills. His health rapidly declined and was found dead at his home.
“It was a difficult thing to watch another person suffer so much and not know how to help them,” John said. “At the time, we didn’t think there was anything we could do so Earl couldn’t see a doctor… Now I know that if our state had extended Medicaid, Earl could have gotten the treatment. health he needed. “
“He wanted to get better; he wanted to work to support himself.
Critics have voiced concerns that the expansion has resulted in significant cost overruns and shrinking profit margins for hospitals in other states. They are also concerned that the federal government will change its connecting rates, leaving Wyoming “on the hook” for a higher percentage of the costs.
House District 58 representative Pat Sweeney said Friday that Medicaid’s latest expansion effort may be more “viable” this time around, given additional incentive through the American Rescue Plan Act.
During the first two years, the federal government will pay an additional 5% of the expenses out of the existing Medicaid pool. The 50% state federal match is skewed by Teton County, the nation’s richest, Sweeney said.
Sweeney also said the bill included mechanisms to opt out of the deal if the federal government changed the 90/10 extension match ratio, or failed to negotiate the additional 5 match. % for existing Medicaid coverage beyond the first two years.