What seems to be a grand and self-aggrandizing gesture by a local politician to help a cancer patient with a personal check is one more example of how our policymakers in Wyoming want to do help uninsured adults – except the easy and obvious thing of making Medicaid available to poor adults without children.
This would close the Medicaid “gap” opened by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Affordable Care Act. The court says states have to decide, one by one, to expand Medicaid eligibility to adults who make less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level. That’s about $15,000 a year for an individual.
In Wyoming, an estimated 17,600 adults would qualify. At least half of them are employed, and even more are part of working households. They include minimum-wage and seasonal workers and people who cannot get good jobs because they have health problems they can’t take care of.
Or, if they get care, they can’t pay for it, adding to the millions of dollars of uncompensated care that providers – and ultimately all of us – bear. And it’s likely to be care that is emergency-based, not the appropriate and cost-effective primary care that leads to a healthy life.
The irony in Wyoming’s refusal to expand Medicaid is that our state is turning away millions of dollars in health care and millions of dollars in savings. The federal health reform law collects revenue to cover 100 percent of expanded Medicaid for three years and then decline to 90 percent.
Also, Wyoming could shift several safety-net programs to expanded Medicaid and save millions. Wyoming’s Medicaid program is a model of efficiency and a good way to cover low-income adults.
The friend of a friend who is diagnosed with cancer needs real health insurance, not some well-intentioned but inadequate donations as suggested by one Laramie County commissioner. The thousands of other uninsured adults in Wyoming need coverage, too.
Medicaid coverage for low-income adults without dependent children makes sense for Wyoming. The governor and Legislature should do it now.
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