CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The Wyoming House of Representatives passed a bill on a 32-28 vote Wednesday to expand Medicaid eligibility to low-income adults.
The bill would still have to pass the Senate and be signed by Gov. Mark Gordon before becoming law. The Senate killed a nearly identical bill on Monday when it missed a deadline for a hearing. The Senate floor leader will decide when the House version of the bill gets a hearing, the Casper Star-Tribune reports.
The House bill would allow the state to pursue a plan to expand the federal-state health insurance program to Wyoming adults whose income is at or below 138% of the federal poverty level - offering coverage for those who don't qualify for Medicaid and don't qualify for premium subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.
Wyoming is one of a dozen states that have not expanded Medicaid eligibility.
Supporters argue now is the time because there is increased federal funding available through the latest stimulus package as an incentive for those 12 states.
In Wyoming's case, the offered 5% increase in federal funds for its traditional Medicaid program could bring in $120 million in each of the two years it's offered, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported. The federal government covers 50% of traditional Medicaid costs and 90% of the Medicaid expansion costs.
Wyoming's health department estimates it would cover about 24,000 state residents in its first two years of Medicaid expansion with an estimated annual cost to the state of $20 million, a figure supporters say would be more than offset with the new subsidies.
"I voted no multiple times on this same issue, and I'm going to vote yes this time because I haven't seen any other solution," said Republican House Speaker Eric Barlow of Gillette. "Nobody's brought anything forward, and I've looked myself."
Physician, hospital groups and others also supported the bill, saying it was a way to reduce uncompensated care costs while improving the health of those without insurance coverage.
Opponents raised budgetary concerns and argued it would provide free health coverage to those who are able to work.
"I haven't heard once how our state is going to pay for this," said Republican Rep. Chuck Gray of Casper.