The head of the Institute of Population Health at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center says the decision by the 2016 Wyoming Legislature not to expand the Medicaid program in Wyoming hurts overall healthcare in the state.

Josh Hannes says that's because the 20,000 or so state residents who are left without healthcare coverage will still be treated for medical issues. But because they don't have health insurance and are low income, hospitals will usually not be compensated for the cost of their healthcare. He also says those without health insurance usually end up visiting hospital emergency rooms, which is generally the most expensive mode of health care.

Hannes says the money and resources hospitals spend on treating the uninsured could go for doctors, equipment and medical resources to generally improve healthcare for everyone.

He says CRMC is spending about $20 million a year on uncompensated care that can;t be used to recruit doctors and improve overall patient care. He says the statewide figure is in the range of $114 million annually.

A proposal to expand the Medicaid program in Wyoming was defeated in the state senate in the just-concluded legislative session, despite the support of Governor Matt Mead.

Opponents of expansion said they are concerned that Wyoming may end up getting stuck with the cost of expanding the program, arguing the federal government can't be trusted to continue paying most of the costs of expansion.

Prominent opponent Senator Charles Scott (R-Casper) also questioned whether the cost of uncompensated care to Wyoming hospitals is really as high as they are claiming. Scott also argued the program puts recipients ''in bondage" to Medicaid for healthcare, hurting them over the long-term.