Wyoming Edges Closer to Medicaid Expansion

By: - March 9, 2021 12:00 am

A medical assistant tests for COVID-19 in Casper, Wyoming. A provision in President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan may persuade Wyoming to expand Medicaid. The Associated Press

Buried in President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill is a provision intended to entice 12 holdout states to extend health coverage to more low-income adults by expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Although Congress has not yet passed the legislation, Biden’s strategy appears to be working. A key Wyoming Senate committee this week approved a measure that would extend Medicaid benefits to all poor adults—not just older adults, those with disabilities and pregnant women. The bill now moves to the Wyoming Senate floor.

If it passes, the law would add about 24,000 Wyoming residents to the Medicaid rolls, according to estimates released by the state’s Department of Health last month.

The Wyoming bill passed the all-Republican Senate Labor, Health and Social Services Committee by a vote of 3-2, according to the Casper Star Tribune.

The Wyoming bill’s sponsor, Democratic state Sen. Chris Rothfuss, touted Biden’s plan as an added incentive for the state to expand Medicaid eligibility, which he said would bring an additional $120 million federal Medicaid dollars into Wyoming over a two-year period. The U.S. Senate passed the Biden bill Saturday. It is now with the House.

For current holdout states that choose to expand, the Biden bill would increase the federal Medicaid match by five percentage points for two years. Medicaid is jointly financed by the federal and state governments, with the match rate varying based on a state’s per capita income.

The federal Medicaid match in Wyoming is 56.2% during the pandemic. If the state expands Medicaid, its match rate would climb to 61.2%. (Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress temporarily increased every state’s match rate by 6.2 percentage points for the duration of the crisis.)

The match rate in the Biden plan would apply to the existing Medicaid population rather than new beneficiaries who would gain coverage under expansion. The federal match for expansion Medicaid populations in all states is 90%.

Wyoming is the first non-expansion state to show interest in the Medicaid provisions in Biden’s plan. But expansion advocates in many of the other holdout states have begun citing the higher match rate in their arsenal of arguments.

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Michael Ollove

Michael Ollove covers health care for Stateline. Ollove worked for many years at The Baltimore Sun, as an enterprise reporter and an editor.