Medicaid Expansion Debate Rages
As state lawmakers prepare to hold a hearing on proposals to expand Medicaid in Wyoming on Monday morning, both supporters and opponents are making their case;
Josh Hannes is an Epidemiologist with the Institute of Population Health at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center. He says uncompensated health care is currently costing Wyoming hospitals $200 million per year. Hannes says his organization favors the Share federal Medicaid Expansion proposal, because it's "budget neutral and easy to administer".
But he says even if lawmakers choose an alternative plan, the key point is that uncompensated care needs to be addressed because it is devouring resources that could be better spent elsewhere.
Hannes says the situation is even worse for some of the smaller hospitals in the state that don't have the resources that a larger facility like CRMC does.
But Sven Larsen, an Economist with Republic Free Choice, a non-profit that says it lobbies for economic freedom, questions the numbers expansion supporters are using.
He says he's heard uncompensated care either costs state hospitals $90 million or $200 million a year. But he says he can't find any proof to support either number. Larsen says he's also concerned the often-quoted number of 17,600 people who would be covered by the expansion could explode if the expansion actually is implemented.
He says that's because employers in businesses on the lower tier of the wage scale may dump their employees on the medicaid program as an alternative for paying for health insurance.
Larsen also argues the federal government can't be trusted to continue to pay for most of the costs of expansion, which could leave Wyoming on the hook for the costs.