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!

Your Land in Private Hands: House Bill 228 is a “Gift” From Fremont County Republicans

SONY DSCWhile the attention of many who hunt has been distracted by the shiny object of politics—gun regulations—our Fremont County Republican legislators have been working quietly to change Wyoming’s relationship with the public lands that we love. House Bill 228, “creating a task force on the transfer of federal lands” and “requiring a report from the attorney general on possible legal recourses available to compel the federal government to relinquish ownership and management of specified federal lands,” has flown through both the House and the Senate and now awaits the Governor’s signature.

If that sounds like an attack on our right to recreate on public lands then the membership of the task force prescribed in HB 228 is downright ominous—two members of the Wyoming Senate, two from the House, and then, appointed by the Governor: one county commissioner, an individual from oil and gas, one from mining, one from agriculture and, finally, one from travel and recreation. To further illuminate the true intent of the bill’s authors it specifies that the University of Wyoming’s School of Energy provide advisory support. Not the Ag School. Not the School of Environment and Natural Resources. Just Energy. This does not sound like a balanced study.

Having all of our public lands under state management is not a step forward for wildlife and recreation in Wyoming. Our state land managers are good people who do the best that they can with a limited staff and limited budgets, but as a hunter who enjoys many fall days on public lands the difference between lands managed by the BLM and our state lands is obvious to the eye. Oftentimes, a mere fence line separates over-used state land from federally managed ground with good cover and ample forage. But it gets worse.

If you “look under the hood” of the original House Bill 228 it is even more concerning. The required study would explore the creation of a commission to administer the process for “the state of Wyoming, other entity or private individuals to receive title to formerly federally owned and managed lands from the United States” and “establish procedures and requirements for subjecting formerly federally owned and managed lands to property taxation.” This is not a bill that just looks at switching the management of our public lands from the feds to the state, it is looking at taking the land that you and I hunt, fish and backpack on and turning it over to private interests.

House Bill 228 means less access and poorly managed lands. And we get all of this for the low, low price of $30,000, the cost of the “study.” And of course there is the minor problem of the Feds never having expressed any interest in turning over the land to the state. House Bill 228 is fiscal mismanagement, belligerence and bad policy all in one nice package.

Sadly, this industry land grab has its roots right here in Fremont County. Representative David Miller of Riverton, Representative Lloyd Larsen of Lander and Senator Eli Bebout of Riverton are House Bill 228 co-sponsors. Their Fremont County Republican colleagues—Senators Case and Geis, and Representatives Winters and Campbell—have joined them in voting for this wasteful, quixotic gift to the extractive industries. The only elected official from Fremont County to vote against the bill was Democratic Representative Patrick Goggles.

This second coming of the Sagebrush Rebellion is out of the gate now. If you hunt, fish, ATV or backpack on public lands, beware. Your recreation is under attack.

If you believe public lands belong in public hands, join us, “Turn Fremont Blue.”

Related Story: Casper Star-Tribune: Wyoming may look at ways to manage federal land