Medicaid Fails in The Senate

By Tom Lacock
Wyoming Medical Society

CHEYENNE – A pair of budget amendment to expand Medicaid in Wyoming died a nasty death on Friday afternoon in the Wyoming State Senate.

The first amendment was presented by Senator Bernadine Craft (R-Sweetwater) who amended the expansion plan to include a two-year sunset date, at which point Medicaid would cease to exist in Wyoming. She also added to the amendment that if the federal government should dip below its 90 percent promise to pay, the state would automatically opt-out of Medicaid expansion without penalty.

Debate on the amendment was short-lived as Senator Charles Scott (R-Casper) listed his reasons for opposition including:  his feeling it wouldn’t do much to help the actual health status of those being covered; his disbelief that because hospitals are in financial peril; and his feeling that the federal government would punish Wyoming for leaving the program once it opted-in.

Craft countered with a statistic suggesting 16 percent of the hospitals in non-expansion states have closed since the start of expansion.

Dan Dockstader (R-Afton) and Larry Hicks (R-Carbon) both stood in opposition of the bill. Joint Appropriations Committee Co-Chair Tony Ross (R-Cheyenne) said he had changed his mind from last year’s vote due to expansion’s ability to balance the budget.

“We failed in some respects to meet and balance our budget,” Ross said. “We were $36 million short. We have been castigated, beat up with what to do to keep budget in line. If we passed expansion, we would bring our budget in line and have flexibility in other areas.”

The vote in the Senate was 10-20.

Senator Chris Rothfuss (D-Laramie) then offered another amendment to the budget bill which would expand Medicaid but use the savings to the state to pay for Title 25 and other mental health concerns. That bill was also defeated 11-19 with Gerald Geis (R-Washakie) changing his vote from the previous bill.

At present there are no known efforts on the House side to bring Medicaid into the budget.