Survey: Majority of Wyomingites Support Expanding Medicaid

A new survey shows state residents support accepting federal dollars to expand Medicaid health coverage. (Monkeybusinessimages/iStockphoto)
A new survey shows state residents support accepting federal dollars to expand Medicaid health coverage. (Monkeybusinessimages/iStockphoto)

June 9, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – A new survey conducted by the University of Wyoming’s Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy shows state residents support efforts by the Legislature to balance the state’s budget, but disagree with lawmakers’ decision not to accept federal funding for Medicaid expansion. Wyoming passes up $310,000 every day the state decides not to expand the program.

Bri Jones executive director of the Equality State Policy Center said expanding Medicaid would bring $268 million in tax dollars back to Wyoming.

“I think it’s a really basic question,” she said. “Do we bring our tax dollars home and spend them here at home or do we just let them go to another state and not support our own communities?”

Falling oil prices forced legislators to make difficult choices in the last session, and the state faces a $600 million budget shortfall in the next two years. The survey found taxes and Medicaid are top policy priorities. Respondents said they prefer accepting federal funding to expand health coverage and don’t want changes in how they’re taxed by the state. Critics of expanding Medicaid argue the state can’t afford the program.

Jones notes that because Wyoming has not accepted federal money for Medicaid expansion, the state spends nearly $20 million a year to pay hospitals and clinics for treating uninsured patients who can’t pay medical bills. She said when people who don’t have coverage show up at the emergency room, Wyoming consumers end up taking the hit.

“And basically passing on the costs to everyone else through uncompensated care costs that we pay in higher premiums and higher insurance rates in Wyoming,” she added.

Jones said if Wyoming opts to expand coverage, a family of three would qualify if they earn just under $28,000 dollars a year or less. Federal dollars would cover all costs this year, and starting in 2017, the federal share would gradually decrease to 90 percent in 2020, where it would remain.

The full survey can be found online here.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service – WY