Governor Pushes Medicaid Expansion for Wyoming
Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead is calling on state lawmakers to expand the federal Medicaid program.
The move could extend health insurance coverage to some 20,000 low-income adults in the state.
Mead spoke to lawmakers in Cheyenne Monday in his annual state of the state address that kicks off the legislative session.
Mead says accepting federal funds to expand Medicaid could save the state over $30 million a year by reducing pressure on other state health programs. Expanding the program is a key element of the federal Affordable Care Act.
The Wyoming Legislature has rejected Medicaid expansion repeatedly in recent years and a key committee has recommended rejecting it again this year. Many lawmakers say they don't trust federal promises to continue to fund the program.
Gov. Mead says it's critical the state continue to invest in communities and infrastructure even as energy revenues are declining.
Mead has proposed lawmakers reduce the flow of energy revenues into permanent savings and instead direct more into the state's "rainy day fund," where it could be spent. The fund currently stands at $1.8 billion.
The Legislature's Joint Appropriations Committee has voted down Mead's proposals. Committee leaders instead are calling for blanket reductions in most state agency budgets and proposes less spending than Mead wants for education and transportation projects.
Mead is pledging to continue to fight for the state's beleaguered coal industry.
Lawmakers must craft a state budget for the coming two years this session. The must determine how the state will cover some $600 million in school construction expenses that until recently was covered by coal revenues.
Many major coal companies are in financial trouble and some with mines in Wyoming's Powder River Basin recently have declared bankruptcy. The federal government, meanwhile, recently announced a moratorium on new coal leases.
Mead has pushed to open Asian markets to Wyoming coal but has run into opposition from states in the Northwest.