An official with Cheyenne Regional Medical Center says he doesn't understand why some state legislators don't want to accept federal money to expand the Medicaid program in Wyoming when they have no problem taking other federal funds.

Josh Hannes, Director of the Wyoming Institute of Population Health at CRMC, notes opponents of expanding Medicaid in Wyoming often say they don't trust the federal government to continue picking up most of the tab for Medicaid expansion and argue Wyoming will be left on the hook for the expansion.

But he says no one seems to worry about that happening with federal money that pays for other programs in Wyoming.

Hannes also says the expansion would help address the cost of uncompensated care for Wyoming hospitals. He says the cost for all hospitals in Wyoming for uncompensated care is around $114 million a year, with CRMC alone facing about $20 million annually.

He says much of those costs are incurred by hospitals providing care to people who don't have health insurance. He also says Wyoming hospitals operate an a very thin margin, adding the money that is used to cover uncompensated care comes out of funds that could be used to improve healthcare for state residents.

Expanding Medicaid would  reduce the problem by providing coverage to about 20,000 state residents who don't currently have it, and often can't pay for healthcare.

He says another problem is that people without health insurance often get healthcare at hospital emergency rooms, which is far more expensive then seeing a private doctor. If those people were covered, emergency room visits would be far less common.

The Legislature has refused to expand Medicaid in the last two sessions. Governor Matt Mead originally opposed expansion as well, but switched to favoring expansion in 2015.