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Medicaid expansion coming to Wyoming soon?

AARP Wyoming-Med Ex picture
Michael Quirk

Barreling down the washboard road of Wyoming politics, Medicaid expansion logged another mile marker in December.

While the Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Interim Committee was split 7-7 on Dec. 17 about endorsing the Strategy for Health, Access, Responsibility and Employment (SHARE) plan backed by Gov. Matt Mead and the Wyoming Department of Health, the committee did approve Co-chair and Sen. Charles Scott’s, R-Casper, Indiana Medicaid program redux.

Under the current proposals, Medicaid expansion would assist Wyoming’s low-income residents in obtaining a healthcare plan. It’s estimated that an additional 17,600 residents, who earned wages up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level (about $27,310 for a family of three in 2014), could be enrolled in 2015 for medical coverage if a Medicaid expansion plan is passed by Wyoming’s 63rd legislature, according to the Wyoming Department of Health’s Medicaid Expansion Report.

“I think we’re one step closer,” said AARP Wyoming’s Associate Director of Outreach, Renee Gamino. “Wyoming needs Medicaid expansion so we can help individuals falling through the healthcare coverage gap.”

Typically, low-income workers will sideline their medical needs until they become emergencies, she said. Then, they turn to emergency rooms to fix preventable issues and get stuck with bills beyond their income ability, she added. While some organizations exist to help with medical bill management, if the patient misses a payment, the situation could spiral into bankruptcy, she said.

“If they have a health plan they can afford, they can start seeing a light at the end of the tunnel,” Gamino said.

Although naysayers have pointed to state-level costs incurred by expansion, Gamino said ample data exists illustrating Medicaid expansion will do the opposite saving the state money in the long run.

The Dept. of Health report estimates Medicaid expansion could inject $100-120 million in annual federal funding resulting in the creation of about 800 jobs statewide.

Yet, Gamino said some still have doubts, and among those, there is a common misperception that expansion is being engineered to help people who don’t work and take advantage of the system.

“There is no concrete data to support that conclusion,” she said explaining Wyoming is home to abundant workers earning minimum wage or working multiple part-time jobs to make ends meet. Medicaid expansion will provide the most-overlooked portion of Wyoming’s workforce the opportunity of health care coverage, she said.

“I think those who are in need of Medicaid expansion are ready,” Gamino said.

Story by Ike Fredregill, AARP Wyoming

Photo courtesy michaelquirk@istockphoto.com

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