CHEYENNE – Health care and campaign finance reform were two of many issues Wyoming gubernatorial candidates discussed Wednesday at the Wyoming Epilepsy Association and Wyoming Alliance’s Symposium of Voter Education.
Following a presentation on voters’ rights in Wyoming and a luncheon, five candidates participated in a moderated forum, exploring topics such as state Medicaid expansion and the Wyoming Promise Initiative.
During the one-hour event, candidates reaffirmed their stances on health-care availability in Wyoming.
When asked about how the state could best provide resources to underserved populations, suggestions ranged from Medicaid expansion to community resources.
“There are those who are physically and mentally disabled, and we need to identify those individuals to deliver service,” said Republican candidate Taylor Haynes. “We are a compassionate society, and we need services to support that.”
Still, Haynes said, many utilizing the state’s services are “able-bodied.”
“When I practiced medicine, many people who came to see me did not need to be on Title 19,” he said. “They needed to be on the job. I would ensure people deciding those services would differentiate who should be in a training program, an internship and who is truly disabled and needs the services.”
Democratic candidate Kenneth Casner used the example of a single mother working two entry-level jobs in Rawlins to illustrate his thoughts.
“She makes too much money to qualify for the programs she needs to help her family,” he said. “There are a lot of people in Wyoming doing just that. They have been working their tushes off to make ends meet and want to help themselves. We need to follow the rules as they were designed to be followed, because then people can help themselves.”
Republican candidate Foster Friess said the first step to helping those in need of additional health-care assistance begins with educating the public about existing low-cost prescription medication programs.
“We have the capacity to do so much to help people,” he said. “There are programs that exist where even the pharmaceutical companies will provide medications at a lower cost. Through Christian health-sharing ministries such as Medi-Share, people have access to resources they may not know about.”
Republican candidate Harriet Hageman said she believes seeking an Affordable Care Act waiver for private insurance would be a key consideration if elected, and that health-sharing ministries would provide relief without adding an additional burden on the state.
Democrat Mary Throne is a proponent of Medicaid expansion in the state, and believes investing in tele-health is the best way to provide care to rural communities.
Another largely overlooked issue discussed at the forum was campaign finance reform.
Candidates were asked whether they support the Wyoming Promise Initiative, a grassroots effort on behalf of Wyoming residents to repeal what’s known as Citizens United. In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court declared government restrictions on independent political spending by corporations and labor unions to be unconstitutional.
Wyoming Promise believes money in politics has reached unacceptable levels as a result of the ruling.
Although Hageman and Friess had to leave the forum for another event before the question was asked, the remaining three candidates had a variety of solutions.
“I have signed the petition to overturn Citizens United,” Throne said. “In addition to that, I think it is important that the state pass laws requiring transparency so we can get as much information about how money is being spent and who is spending it on whom, even if we can’t control the actual expenditures.”
Haynes said he did not support Wyoming Promise.
“I don’t support overturning this constitutional amendment,” he said. “I think it is incumbent on the voters to do research on your candidates. If you research your candidates, no amount of money spent on another candidate should be able to affect you.”
Casner, who identified himself as a grassroots candidate himself, also supported the ruling’s repeal.
“Do I support financial contributions being capped? Yes, because you have to have common people at a common level who can’t afford to run to be allowed to run,” he said. “You’ve got to let everyone in the ballgame.”
The forum wrapped up with information about how to vote in Wyoming. The state’s primaries are Aug. 21.