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Wyoming Medicaid Expansion Bill Defeated In Senate Committee

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A proposal to expand the Medicaid program in Wyoming was voted down in the Senate Labor, Health and Social Services Committee on Wednesday by a 3-2 margin.

The same committee had approved a Senate Medicaid Expansion bill on March 9 by a 3-2 margin.

In that vote, Senator Troy McKeown [R-Campbell County] voted for the measure, saying that although he had serious reservations about the proposal, he felt that it deserved further discussion. That bill eventually died in the Senate.

On Wednesday, McKeown joined fellow Republican Sens. Anthony Bouchard and Lynn Hutchings in voting against House Bill HB 162. The bill was sponsored by Rep. John Romero-Martinez [R-Laramie County].

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Supporters of expanding the Medicaid Program have been trying for almost a decade to get the Wyoming Legislature to go along with expanding the program to make people at 138 percent of the federal poverty guidelines eligible for coverage.

According to testimony, that would provide coverage for roughly 25,000 people in Wyoming.

The committee heard about three hours of testimony on Wednesday from a long list of witnesses on both sides of the issue, although a majority of those speaking favored the bill. Sen. Chris Rothfuss [D-Albany County], speaking in favor of the bill, told the committee “I understand all of those concerns because they are challenges.” But he said so far nobody else seems to have a better idea of how to give Wyoming residents who currently don’t have health insurance coverage. ”I’m not married to this solution” Rothfuss said, adding “It’s really the only one that has been on the table.”

But before voting on the bill, Sen. Hutchings questioned “Is this the proper role of government? For us to get involved in providing medical care access for our people?” Hutchings said she was once told that as a lawmaker, she should always ask whether a proposal is constitutional.

She also, at several points during Wednesday’s committee meeting raised concerns about the federal budget deficit, which she said is now in the $85 Trillion range. ”Where are we going to get the money to fund this program?’ she asked at one point.

This year marked the first time ever that the Wyoming House of Representatives had approved an expansion bill. HB 162 passed the House 32-28 before being defeated in committee.

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