On Friday, the Republican-controlled Wyoming Senate voted 19-11 to reject Medicaid expansion, which would have extended health care coverage to over 17,000 low-income, uninsured residents. Lawmakers voted down the expansion, even though it had the support of conservative Republican Governor Matt Mead. Mead opposed Medicaid expansion during his first term, but he converted to becoming a supporter in November of 2014, arguing that the state could use the 120 million dollars in federal funds to offset the costs absorbed by hospitals for uncompensated care.
In response to the Senate rejecting the bill, Governor Mead expressed disappointment, stating:
I believe that Wyoming’s working poor need health care coverage. We must recognize what health care means to individuals and to our economy.
The state would have been eligible for 120 million dollars in federal money with no strings attached. However, because so many Wyoming Lawmakers campaigned on opposing Obamacare, they rejected the funds. For example, State Senator Leland Christensen (R-Alta) argued that the Affordable Care Act was not the answer to Wyoming’s health care crisis. He proclaimed:
This is no time to abandon the Wyoming way of doing things. We have options. I’m convinced we can find a better option for the people of Wyoming.
The Senator, however, did not specify what better options the state was considering. As with so many Republican opponents of the Affordable Care Act, Wyoming’s Senators know what they are against, but they have yet to articulate what they are for. After the Senate bill had been defeated, a House companion bill was pulled from the Labor, Health and Social Services Committee, effectively killing Medicaid expansion in both chambers for the current legislative session.
Wyoming’s decision to kill Medicaid expansion comes just two days after Tennessee turned down expansion for their state. In both cases, Republican state lawmakers defied the wishes of their own GOP Governor. Governor Gary Herbert of Utah (R), may face a similar revolt when he tries to get Medicaid expansion funding passed through his state’s Republican-dominated legislature.
A number of Republican Governors understand that Medicaid expansion is a sensible way to extend coverage to low-income residents of their states. However, the Tea Party dominated legislatures in red states are not interested in cooperating with pragmatic Republican Governors. Those lawmakers would sooner have people go uninsured than admit they are wrong about opposing Obamacare.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.