For the past several years, Wyoming lawmakers have resisted calls to expand Medicaid coverage in the state. Not even Gov. Matt Mead was able to sway the Legislature into offering government-sponsored health care to more people.
That trend has continued in the current legislative session, with lawmakers rejecting proposals to expand the joint state/federal program to more lower-income Wyomingites.
However, the state Senate has approved a bill that would direct the Wyoming Department of Insurance to study Medicaid expansion and what impact it would have on the state. Senate File 146 would add an employee to the department to study the issue over the next year — at an estimated cost of $260,000.
The measure is being spearheaded by Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, who says it would be helpful to have some “hard numbers.”
“If you’re for [expansion] or against, you should be for this bill,” Scott said at a Thursday committee meeting, according to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.
However, we’d suggest that Sen. Scott has it backwards: Regardless of how you feel about Medicaid, you should oppose Senate File 146, which would simply waste taxpayers dollars on yet another government study.
In 2012, the Wyoming Department of Health hired a private firm, Milliman, to conduct an analysis of Medicaid expansion. The Department of Health then released its own analysis in 2014, based in part off Milliman’s work. Both studies concluded that the state could add health care coverage to thousands of Wyomingites and save millions of dollars through expansion, since the federal government has pledged to pick up most of the added costs. Other groups have conducted studies, too.
But lawmakers were unmoved. Some worried the feds would back out of their end of the deal, leaving the state stuck with big new bills. Others remain opposed to the general idea of expanding Medicaid, seeing it as a handout.
Amid this climate, we fail to see what good will be accomplished by another report.
As Wyoming Liberty Group Senior Policy Analyst Evan Blauser recently said, “We already have this study in our hands.”
“This is a bill that would cost $260,000 that would be a redundant study,” Blauser told the publication Media with Merit.
We haven’t heard any good reasons to dismiss the previous reports. But even if this new study reaches drastically different conclusions, we suspect few people will change their minds about Medicaid expansion.
More than five years into this debate, it seems fairly clear that lawmakers who oppose expansion wouldn’t be swayed by any rosy projections, nor are expansion advocates going to be dissuaded by any red flags the new report might raise. It’s become more of a debate about philosophy and principles than any numbers.
The real impetus for this new study appears to be some nervousness among lawmakers that Wyoming voters will take matters into their own hands. There are rumblings that private citizens and groups may try to bypass the Legislature altogether and propose a referendum that would directly ask Wyoming voters to expand Medicaid. That’s what voters in Utah and Idaho decided to do last year.
Given the staggering cost of health care and insurance today, it makes sense that citizens want action — and makes it all the more baffling that the best solution our Legislature can apparently come up with is to fund a study. We can think of plenty of better ideas. For instance, if that $260,000 is really burning a hole in the Legislature’s pocket, it could put that cash toward the millions of dollars of care that Wyoming hospitals are providing to folks who can’t afford to pay.
While politicians and experts may disagree on whether expanding Medicaid would be a net gain or loss for Wyoming, we think it’s clear that Senate File 146 is a waste of time and money. We hope the House defeats it.