By Ramsey Scott
Wyoming Tribune Eagle
Via Wyoming News Exchange
CHEYENNE - The Legislature is one step closer to authorizing a new study on what Medicaid expansion could look like in Wyoming. But as some lawmakers and outside observers asked during a hearing Thursday, will the Legislature actually use this new study, or will it simply put it in a drawer with the other studies on the issue?
The House Labor, Health and Social Services Committee voted 7-2 to support Senate File 146. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, would put $260,000 toward a new study on Medicaid expansion in Wyoming.
Scott said the goal behind the study is to ensure lawmakers have the most recent data to decide whether expansion would work in Wyoming and whether there would be any drawbacks. Given the desire by citizen groups to put Medicaid expansion on the ballot in 2020, Scott said it was imperative for lawmakers and the public to have the information readily available.
Voters in Nebraska, Idaho and Utah recently approved ballot measures to expand the state's Medicaid coverage.
"If you're for (expansion) or against, you should be for this bill," Scott said during the meeting. "It will give us a hard set of numbers" to work with.
There have been several studies authorized by the Legislature in recent years, and the Wyoming Department of Health last year compiled a plethora of data for the interim session. The existence of other studies, both produced by the state and from multiple nongovernmental groups, was brought up by both sides of the issue during Thursday's committee meeting.
Eric Boley, president of the Wyoming Hospital Association, said his group wants expansion but had some concerns about the study.
He knows there are groups preparing to put the issue on the ballot in 2020, and he thought it was important for the state to get out in front of the issue to make sure if implementation happens, it's done in the best way possible.
But Boley was afraid the process with previous studies would be repeated if the Legislature decided to go down that road again.
"If we get information that makes sense, are we really going to act on it?" Boley said. "Is this just going to be another one of our studies? Are we going to spend (money) and study this, and if the results come back and it shows that it's beneficial to our providers in the state and it's beneficial to residents of the state, are we actually going to take action, or are we just going to file it away as another study? Because we do studies ad nauseum."
Those concerns about another study wasting time and money were the reason Rep. Jim Roscoe, I-Wilson, voted against SF 146. He said the data already exists, and he didn't think a new study would change the opinions of anyone in the Legislature.
Rep. Scott Clem, R-Gillette, voted for the bill in large part because he said having the best data available would allow lawmakers to make the most informed decision possible.
"Good data promotes good policy," Clem said.