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The Wyoming Senate Labor, Health, and Social Services Committee on Monday morning signed off on a bill to expand the Medicaid program in Wyoming.

You can read Senate File 154 here.

The bill would expand the Medicaid program in Wyoming to include people who make 138 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. But Senate Bill 154, unlike some other Medicaid Expansion proposals in the Wyoming Legislature, would specify that the expansion of the program in Wyoming would remain in place only so long as the federal government picks up at least 90 percent of the tab.

One of the arguments against Medicaid Expansion in past legislative sessions was the fear that the federal government would stop picking up most of the tab, leaving Wyoming on the hook to pay for the entire cost of expansion.

According to testimony at Monday's committee hearing, it is believed that roughly 25,000 people would be eligible for the expansion in Wyoming. Most of the eligible people would be the "working poor," people who are not eligible for traditional Medicaid and who may not have insurance at work.

The issue has come up repeatedly in the Wyoming Legislature over the past few years, at one point garnering the support of then-Governor Matt Mead. But concerns about the cost of the program to Wyoming--either because the federal government backs off on pledges to pick up most of the cost, or because larger than expected numbers of people sign up for the program in Wyoming.

At Monday's committee hearing, Sen. Chris Rothfuss [D-Albany County], the bill's primary sponsor, urged the committee to move the bill onto the full Senate, even if committee members might end up voting against the bill. Rothfuss said he didn't disagree with arguments that "this is a problematic system....this doesn't solve the flaws that we've identified, it doesn't.''

But he went on to say ''We're taking a principled stand with the lives of 25,000 Wyomingites that don't have the luxury of sitting here today, having this chat.'' He said that includes the working poor, single moms "with two or three jobs, the mentally ill...and we've offered them nothing for the last decade."

But Sen. Anthony Bouchard said of the discussion on the bill ''What I heard a lot of is, people want socialized health care." Bouchard said he "had a lot of problems'' with the Affordable Care Act, which originally led to the expansion of Medicaid. ''We're at a point now where it's not so affordable. And it seems like every time the government gets involved in health care, it gets worse.'' Bouchard says he was not convinced that ''moving into that realm" is a good idea.

But the committee voted 3-2 in favor of moving the bill on to the full Senate.

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