Wyoming Gov Pushes Medicaid Expansion, Coal In Speech

By John Celock

Wyoming’s Republican governor vowed to continue to oppose the Affordable Care Act and new federal coal regulations while embracing the expansion of the state’s Medicaid program in his State of the State address Wednesday.

Gov. Matt Mead (R) used the first State of the State of his second term to formally kick off his push to expand Medicaid in the state. Mead, who was easily reelected last year, announced in November that he had developed a plan to expand Medicaid in the state. Federal funding for the state Medicaid expansions became available under the Affordable Care Act.

“We’re out of timeouts and we need to address Medicaid expansion,” Mead said Wednesday.

Mead’s plan would involve Wyoming residents to pay part of the health coverage they receive under Medicaid in the expansion, The New York Times reported in November. The payments would be based on the income levels of the family. Mead’s plan is similar in scope to Medicaid expansion plans adopted by Republican governors in other states.

Mead’s plan would require permission from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services since it does not adhere completely to the ACA.

During his speech, Mead emphasized to lawmakers that he remains opposed to the ACA and would continue to fight it. But at the same time he said that he wanted to expand Medicaid in order to bring more federal dollars back to Wyoming. He also noted that the Medicaid expansion is likely to bring 800 jobs to Wyoming.

“Do we choose to have that Wyoming money returned to Colorado or Washington or Wyoming?” Mead said.

Mead is not the first Republican governor to embrace the Medicaid expansion. The plan has been enacted in other states including by Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R).

In his speech Mead also noted his continued opposition to what he described as “federal overreach” in the areas of environmental policy and coal regulation. He said that he wants to fight the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s rulemaking process, which he said is hurting state governments and business.

Mead said that he would work with “bulldog determination” on promoting the coal industry in Wyoming. He noted that coal continues to be an economic growth area for the state and has to be an important part of the national energy policy.

Mead said that he would also fight for other energy resources produced in Wyoming.

“We fight for coal. We will fight for oil and we will fight for gas,” he said. “And other issues if they are hurt by oppressive federal regulations.”

Mead’s speech garnered support from lawmakers in the state.

“The governor gave a solid direction of where Wyoming needs to go in finding some way to get Medicaid expansion passed in Wyoming,” state Rep. Dan Zwonitzer (R-Cheyenne) told The Celock Report. “With lowered commodity prices forecasted this next year, Wyoming will plan accordingly.”