Medicaid Expansion Op-ed Article

This op-ed article by FCDP Chair Bruce Palmer will be appearing in the October 30, 2013 Lander Journal:

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. The Wyoming Department of Health thoroughly investigated the costs and benefits of the expansion and said that it would save the state 47.4 million dollars over six years. Organizations across the state support the expansion including AARP, the Wyoming Medical Society, the Wyoming Association of Churches and the Wyoming Hospital Association. These are not fly by night organizations and you can bet they have done the math. Yet in this past legislative session, in a bad economy, our Republican legislators opted to waste taxpayer’s money in order to make a statement by choosing to not endorse the Medicaid expansion. 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.

More importantly, 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.

Recently, Newt Gingrich said that Republicans have “zero ideas” on health care. Wyoming’s Republicans have less than no idea. Our Republican leaders have been wrong every step of the way, wasting money on a failed lawsuit, and time when we could have controlled our own destiny with a Wyoming Health Exchange run by Wyoming for Wyoming’s people.

Sadly, it is the people of Wyoming who are losing out due to this belligerence.

Next week provides a great opportunity to press our legislators to expand Medicaid. On Monday and Tuesday, November 4 and 5, the Legislatures’ Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Interim Committee will be meeting at the Best Western Inn at Lander and Medicaid expansion is on the agenda. Before the meeting, write or call Lander’s Representative Lloyd Larsen, a member of interim committee and tell him that expanding Medicaid coverage is good for our economy and good for our citizens. Then attend the Tuesday, November 5 meeting and make a public comment. Fremont County Democrats will be there along with others from around the state. For more information and a complete agenda visit: TurnFremontBlue.com.

Make your voice heard!

Info on the November 5 meeting. Come and participate!

Care for the developmentally disabled shows our humanity

The following opinion piece by Bruce Palmer, Chair of the Fremont County Democratic Party, ran in today’s Casper Star-Tribune:

In Wyoming we pride ourselves on our sound judgment, abundant resources and concern for our neighbor. It is time to live these values by investing our state’s wealth and making improvements to the services offered the severely developmentally disabled. Admirably, last session the Legislature asked the Department of Health to eliminate waitlists for services, but unfortunately they are doing this on the backs of those already in the system by scaling back services and embarking on a “study” of the Wyoming Life Resource Center.

As a resident of Lander I am aware of the importance of this facility to Lander, the state of Wyoming, and most particularly to the clients who reside there and their families who have the piece of mind that comes with knowing that their loved one is well-cared for.

The Wyoming Life Resource Center offers excellent service to many of our state’s most vulnerable citizens—the severely developmentally disabled and those with acquired brain injuries. The service provided these Wyoming citizens cannot be replicated in community-based programs—from the work programs that give the clients a sense of belonging and self-worth to the aquatic and therapeutic riding programs that brings joy to a person for whom every day is a challenge.

In the 1990s the vast majority of the residents of the Wyoming Life Resource Center (known then as the Wyoming State Training School) were removed from the facility and placed in community-based programs. These citizens have added greatly to our communities. Just this past winter the town of Lander had a funeral celebrating the life of John Cooper, a former client of the WLRC and a much-loved part of our community. John walked Lander’s Main Street and waved to every car that came through town. He was our goodwill ambassador. Not only was he our welcoming committee, he was also a master of farewells attending nearly every funeral performed in town. It was great being able to count him as a part of the life of our community. We are all richer for it.

John belonged in an adequately funded community-based program. He was able to get around town on his own and with help from his guardian and the available community services was able to navigate life. He was happy and loved and a testament to the benefits of being appropriately placed in the right situation.

Not every developmentally disabled person is the same. Like all of us they have different abilities and different needs. While John was able to lead a good life in the community, the clients of the Wyoming Life Resource Center have needs that are greater than what can be addressed in community-based programming. The people who are like John are already in community programs—some thriving as John did and some struggling. Our state needs both appropriately funded community-based options and the Wyoming Life Resource Center.

Over the past year I have been able to meet many of the 400 plus staff that make the WLRC a true gem in the community of Lander. I met people who were directly involved with client care and rehabilitation, maintenance staff and, to me, a surprise, staff who focus completely on maintaining and customizing wheelchairs and other durable medical products for the clients and others around the state. To a person I found these staff to be passionate about the work that they do for the Wyoming Life Resource Center and dedicated to the client experience.

Both the Wyoming Life Resource Center and our community-based programming show our compassion and caring for all of our citizens.

And our state has the resources to pay for them. Yes, we must be prudent, but we needn’t be stingy.

Bruce Palmer lives in Lander and is the Chair of the Fremont County Democratic Party.

Wyomingites do care about neighbors

Fremont County Democrat Marjane Ambler published this letter to the editor in yesterday’s Casper Star-Tribune.

Thanks, Marjane for telling it like it is!

October 05, 2013 12:00 am
Editor:

As we all know, Wyoming people pride ourselves on taking care of one another. If someone’s car breaks down on a remote road, we can count on someone stopping. I have been the beneficiary of that Wyoming generosity, and I have stopped to help stranded drivers and bicyclists.

If someone suffers from a medical emergency, we all turn out to support them at benefit events.

Benefit dances can never raise enough money to save us from bankruptcy, however — unless either insurance or government steps in to help.

I fear that people across the country see us as selfish because of the votes of our congressional representatives to limit health care for the poor and to limit food stamps. Will Liz Cheney drive our more moderate senator, Mike Enzi, even further to the right?

I hope that we will all remember their actions when it comes time to vote in 2014 and demonstrate that Wyomingmites do care about our neighbors and want them to have enough food to eat and access to health care.

MARJANE AMBLER, Atlantic City