Our Leaders Bluster, Wasting Money and Leaving the Needy Without Health Coverage

ACA Upheld

This op-ed piece by FCDP Chair, Bruce Palmer appeared in the June 23 Casper Star-Tribune:

Just a year ago on June 28 of 2012, the United States Supreme Court, a court stuffed with very, very conservative jurists sent Wyoming and 25 other states packing. The Court ruled that the Affordable Care Act was, in fact, the law of the land. It was a decision that delighted Democrats in Wyoming and across the nation who saw an opportunity to provide health insurance for all of our citizens while it caused outrage on the right where any victory seized by the President is demonized.

After the blush wore off, though, we discovered that the decision left open a door for Wyoming’s Republican obstructionists to continue their grandstanding while wasting money and denying a needed hand-up to those less fortunate. Sadly, the Court left it to the state’s discretion to fully participate in the Medicaid expansion providing the opportunity for Governor Matt Mead and our legislators to continue dithering and blustering against the Federal government.

It would be easy for Republicans to make the right decision for Wyoming concerning the ACA. All we need to do is take responsibility for developing insurance exchanges, virtual marketplaces that would allow our citizens to find the best policy for them and agree to the expansion of Medicaid coverage saving the state 47.4 million dollars. Instead our Republican legislators and Governor at every step of the way have said, “Hell no.”

Not expanding Medicaid as allowed for in the Affordable Care Act is the ultimate act of foolishness. The Wyoming Department of Health thoroughly investigated the costs and benefits of the expansion and came back and said that it would save the state 47.4 million dollars over six years. Organizations across the state supported the expansion including AARP, the Wyoming Medical Society and the Wyoming Hospital Association. These are not fly by night organizations and you can bet they have done the math. In a bad economy our Republican legislators opted to waste taxpayers money to make a statement. And of course it isn’t just our tax dollars that they decided to flush down the toilet.

When people don’t have health insurance they still require health care, but they tend not to take preventative measures. When they become ill or injured, they go to hospital emergency rooms, where ultimately many of their charges must be written off. The Wyoming Hospital Association indicates that these uncompensated expenses add up to 200 million dollars a year. Who do you think pays this bad debt? You, me and every other person who buys health care or health insurance.

And of course good policy isn’t just about governmental spending policy. Our Republican legislature has decided to leave 17,600 of our Wyoming neighbors without health insurance. The optional expansion would cover people with incomes up to 138% of the poverty level. For a family of four this amounts to an income of $31,809. These are our state’s working poor—folks that our Republican majority try to shaft at every opportunity, whether it is changing the rules to take their earned vacation or pooling their tips to limit their income.

It doesn’t have to be this way, but it seems that our Republican politicians are dead set against doing the right thing for our citizens and our state. If the Federal government is involved it is bad, say our legislators. They don’t respond to my letters, says Governor Mead. The politics of divisiveness and childishness are alive and well in Wyoming.

So far our Republican dominated state government has been wrong about everything concerning the ACA. First, Governor Mead and our Republican legislators wasted money, involving Wyoming with the lawsuit that was going to bring down the Affordable Care Act. Wrong.

Then, after that stinging loss our Republican leaders still did nothing to move forward with our responsibilities to enact the law. Instead they bet on President Obama losing the November election and the ACA being repealed on Day One of the Romney presidency, even though Romney was responsible for a nearly identical program that has effectively and efficiently expanded health care for all in Massachusetts. Wrong again. The President won with one of the widest second term margins in history.

Our Republican leaders are consistently wrong on health care and it is the people of Wyoming who are losing out. At every step of the way our Governor and our Republican-led Legislature has fought the Affordable Care Act to the detriment of our citizens and with no regard to the brokenness of the health care system in our nation and state. It is time that we get serious and ask that our Republican legislators and Governor stop genuflecting at the altar of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. Let’s work to create a health care system that is right for Wyoming and our people.

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