OPINION: Time for Wyoming to Expand Medicaid

OPINION: Time for Wyoming to Expand Medicaid

This opinion piece was written and submitted by Rock Springs resident Michael Martin.


Before we get into Expanded Medicaid let’s look at a short overview of basic medicaid. It is a joint state/federal program, roughly paid half by the feds and half by the state. Wyoming Medicaid helps pay for certain health care services, and is available to qualifying families, children, and individuals who are aged, blind or disabled and live at or below the federal poverty level. It is based on household size and annual income. The adults covered are minimally employed. 

Federal poverty level is defined as one person with a yearly income of $13,590, or a three person household with an income of $23,030. These amounts increase with household size. 

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Expanded Medicaid raises these limits to 138 percent of the basic poverty level. 

In Wyoming there are about 25,000 adults that fall in the gap with no insurance. Approximately 19,000 of them are working. The largest portion covered under Expanded Medicaid would be WORKERS, many in low paying jobs that do not provide employer based insurance. 

Wyoming hospitals are eating at least 100 million a year in bad debts. Memorial Hospital’s share is roughly a million dollars a month according Chief Financial Officer Tami Love. The bad debts are passed on to consumers in the form of higher health care costs and higher insurance premiums. Wyoming now has one the highest medical insurance costs in the country. 

Expanded Medicaid could buffer these higher costs and could result in lower insurance premiums. 

Why now? 

The federal government is offering a 54 million dollar incentive, over and above the normal 90 percent, if Wyoming adopts expanded medicaid now. (Consider it a signing bonus!) This 54 million will pay our 10 percent for the next two years AND will put about 34 million into our general funds. This is in a year that we face a serious budget short fall. 

Beyond the incentive period, the feds will pay 90 percent and the state 10 percent. The multiplier effect of the 90 percent in terms of new job and spending has more than offset that already have expanded medicaid. This frees money that could be spent at local businesses. 

Since ExMed has come into existence federal funds have been paying 90 percent for states that have it. 38 states are now participating in the program. Wyoming tax dollars are helping to pay the 90 percent for Expanded Medicaid in those states. It would great if some of our federal money would come back to Wyoming for our benefit. 

The uninsured often do not seek medical help until they are extremely ill. The result is more absenteeism at work. Sometimes it results in disability or even premature death. Insure them and we have a healthier, more productive and more dependable workforce. 

Memorial Hospital CEO Irene Richardson said that the biggest savings to hospitals would be having more people insured so they could seek medical care in a timely manner. This would result in fewer hospital visits and admissions. 

Expanded Medicaid could:
— reduce hospital write offs, lower health costs and insurance premiums. 
–It would help us to have a healthier work force. 
–It would be a stimulus to the state’s economy. 

Is it perfect? No. But after 10 years of considering other solutions our Legislature has not come up with anything better. 

A new poll by the American Cancer Society states that 66 percent of people in Wyoming people are in favor of expansion. 

Expanding Medicaid is the most cost effective way to provide insurance to those who cannot afford to purchase market place insurance. For these reasons, I am asking that you to contact your legislators to pass Medicaid Expansion in 2022. Your legislators contact information can be found online.