CHEYENNE – A bill that would have looked into state alternatives to Medicaid expansion died in the state House on Monday – or, more accurately, was left to wither on the vine.
Senate File 86, sponsored by Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, was his answer to the Legislature’s failure during the last three years to pass an expansion of the state’s Medicaid coverage to some 20,000 low-income Wyomingites.
The bill would have required the Legislature’s Management Council to direct the design of a program providing medical aid to those who can’t otherwise afford it, but on Wyoming’s terms rather than on those of the federal government.
The program designed by SF 86 would have included a work requirement for those able to work.
It also would have been designed with the goal of giving participants incentives to try to better themselves. The intent was to see their incomes high enough that they could afford to buy health insurance via the Affordable Care Act exchange or secure a job that provides insurance.
Finally, SF 86 also contained a provision barring the state from pursuing expansion for two years – until the new program had been designed and vetted by the Legislature.
That provision proved problematic for some senators who tried to amend the bill to have it removed, to no avail.
SF 86 had been set for a hearing in the House Committee of the Whole early Monday afternoon. But as it was about to come up, House Majority Floor Leader Rosie Berger, R-Big Horn, asked to have it pushed back on the schedule. It had been the fifth bill up; it was pushed to 26th in the order.
As afternoon wore on to dusk, Berger requested that the House stay in session until 8 p.m. so that it could hear bills up to No. 25 on the list.
Given that Monday was the final day for bills to be heard in the Committee of the Whole, any bills after that are effectively dead, SF 86 included.
Expansion proponent Eric Boley with the Wyoming Hospital Association said he was pleasantly surprised to see SF 86 placed in an early grave.
“We were tempted to try to get it amended a couple of times to at least remove the provision that would preclude future (Medicaid) expansion for the next two years,” Boley said.
“But I really think this is the best solution, to have SF 86 just die.”
Aside from that, Boley said he felt SF 86 had the wrong idea from the outset, trying to spend two more years looking at a problem the state has been considering since the ACA first passed.
Scott, meanwhile, said he felt the bill may have been the victim of an “all or nothing” mentality among expansion proponents and opponents alike, who don’t believe a state solution is preferable.
Scott also repeated his belief that the Legislature’s past decisions to kill all previous attempts at expansion is a reflection of how people across the state feel about the issue. So, he said, there is a need for a compromise solution.
“The art of good legislation is the art of compromise, and I very much believe that,” he said.
“But if they don’t want to compromise, it means we ain’t gonna do anything.”