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Saying ‘yes’ to Medicaid expansion makes economic sense

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When a state turns down federal dollars, it doesn’t mean the feds don’t spend them. It just means that money goes back to the federal government and may be spent in another state. 

That is one of the many reasons to expand Medicaid in Wyoming. Medicaid expansion would bring millions of new dollars to our economy, keep our workforce healthy and protect our hospitals and clinics. 

Saying “yes” to House Bill 80–Medical treatment opportunity act–Medicaid reform, sponsored by the Joint Interim Revenue Committee, would protect our rural hospitals from being pushed to the brink of closure by the growing costs of caring for the uninsured, inject millions of dollars into our economy and provide healthcare to an estimated 19,000 hardworking Wyomingites who earn less than $$$.

If you think it is important to expand Medicaid and invest our federal tax dollars in Wyoming’s economy and workforce, click here to sign up and join the movement for a Healthy Wyoming.

Medicaid expansion should be an economic decision, not a political one.

A healthy workforce is a productive workforce.

Medicaid expansion supports low-income workers and local small businesses by providing healthcare coverage insurance for those unable to afford it, which makes it easier for Wyoming citizens to go to the doctor. Working Medicaid expansion enrollees are often employed in lower-wage industries like restaurants, construction, agriculture, hospitality and retail. Having access to healthcare coverage and being able to take care of one’s physical and mental health has a positive impact on a person’s ability to work — meaning fewer sick days.

According to a survey of Ohio’s Medicaid expansion population, Medicaid expansion made it easier for people to work. Among beneficiaries who were working, 83.5% said coverage made it easier to work, and 60% of unemployed beneficiaries said coverage made their job search easier.

Additionally, one-third of beneficiaries with continuous coverage in Ohio said their physical health has improved since they gained coverage, and they’re 3.4 times likelier to report improved mental health than to say it has worsened.

In Wyoming, over half of those eligible for Medicaid expansion are working but still cannot afford to pay for healthcare coverage, according to the Wyoming Department of Health’s 2022 Medicaid Expansion report.

That is also the case in Montana, where nearly 72% of Medicaid expansion enrollees are working adults, according to the Montana Healthcare Foundation.3  Montana expanded Medicaid in 2016, and Montana’s Republican-led legislature reauthorized the program in 2019 until 2025.

Nearly 90% of businesses within Montana’s accommodation and food service industry had at least one employee enrolled in Medicaid expansion in 2019, according to a Montana Labor Market Information study. The study suggests companies who work in the construction and retail trades had the most employees enrolled in Montana’s Medicaid program. 

Montana Medicaid has provided access to preventive physical and behavioral health services critical to supporting enrollees’ long-term health, well-being and productivity. Mental health and substance use treatment utilization also increased for expansion enrollees in Montana. 

After it enrolled in Medicaid expansion, Montana also saw fewer people on Medicaid visiting their local emergency rooms for healthcare, instead going to local medical providers. That meant fewer dollars that hospitals had to write off.

Medicaid expansion keeps our rural hospitals open.

Strong hospitals and clinics are vital for economic growth, especially in rural Wyoming communities. But growing uncompensated care continues to threaten the viability of our hospitals. 

When people lack healthcare coverage, they often seek treatment at the emergency room, which comes with a hefty price tag. In Wyoming, hospitals spend about $120 million a year providing uncompensated care to those who can’t afford to pay, according to the Wyoming Hospital Association’s testimony to the Joint Revenue Committee on Nov. 22, 2022. 

Uncompensated care is a primary reason for hospitals having worse operating margins and moving toward closure, according to FamiliesUSA’s 2023 report. Rural hospitals located in Medicaid expansion states decrease the likelihood of closure by an average of 62%. 

Already financial struggles caused hospitals in Kemmerer and Rawlins to announce in 2022 the closure of their labor and delivery services, so now residents will have to travel over an hour to Evanston for those services.

Unlike Wyoming, which saw an increase during the same time period, Montana saw a drop in uncompensated care three years after implementing Medicaid expansion in 2016. Uncompensated care went from $143 million in 2015 to $89 million in 2019.

Medicaid expansion would infuse millions of new dollars into the economy.

Hospitals and health systems have a ripple effect on local economies. The American Hospital Association reports that each hospital job supports nearly two additional jobs and every dollar spent by a hospital supports $2.30 of additional business activity.

Montana has benefited from the infusion of Medicaid expansion dollars.

According to a 2022 report, Montana’s Medicaid expansion brings over $650 million into Montana annually, creating jobs and supporting new economic activity. The new federal spending on Montana’s hospitals, clinics, and primary and specialty care helped create and sustain more than 6,000 new jobs in 2020. The spending also generated an estimated $700 million in new economic activity, as these new employees spend their paychecks on local goods and services.

Join the Healthy Wyoming coalition in supporting Medicaid expansion.

If lawmakers say “no” to HB 80, it will not save our federal tax dollars from being spent. If we don’t increase access to Medicaid, our hard-earned tax dollars will stay in Washington, D.C., not help improve Wyoming’s economy.

Please join Healthy Wyoming in its efforts to expand the Medicaid health insurance program. Coalition members include AARP Wyoming, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, Better Wyoming, Equality State Policy Center, National Alliance on Mental Illness – Wyoming, Wyoming Association of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Centers, Wyoming Community Foundation, Wyoming Hospital Association, Wyoming Medical Society, Wyoming Primary Care Association, Wyoming Women’s Foundation, and many others. Learn more at healthywyoming.org.


PAID FOR BY AARP WYOMING & THE HEALTHY WYOMING COALITION
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