Who is eligible
Pregnant women and children are eligible with household incomes up to 154% of poverty (children are eligible for CHIP with household incomes up to 200% of poverty). Parents with dependent children are eligible with household incomes up to 56% of poverty.
- healthinsurance.org contributor
- October 12, 2015
Renewed efforts to expand Medicaid
Although the vast majority – 70 percent – of Wyoming residents are opposed to the Affordable Care Act in general, 56 percent of the state’s residents support the idea of expanding Medicaid to cover more of the Wyoming’s low-income population. And although Wyoming’s lawmakers have been reluctant to expand Medicaid thus far, a downturn in oil and gas revenues and the resulting shortfall in Wyoming’s budget may make them reconsider.
Governor Matt Mead was initially opposed to Medicaid expansion when he took office in 2011, but by 2013, he had begun exploring options for expansion of coverage, and by the end of 2014, he was a proponent of expanding Wyoming’s Medicaid program using a Section 1115 waiver to implement a state-specific version of expansion.
In the fall of 2015, Governor Mead’s administration was working to obtain estimates from CMS regarding federal spending for Medicaid expansion in Wyoming, and Mead is planning to provide two versions of his budget to lawmakers by December 1. One version will include Medicaid expansion, and the other won’t, so that lawmakers can see the financial ramifications of continuing to reject Medicaid expansion.
Hospitals in the state are also throwing their weight behind the efforts to expand Medicaid, noting that their budgets are already tight, and that they face considerable uncompensated care losses unless the state accepts federal funding to expand Medicaid. In just three months this year, hospitals in the state have already used up more than half of a small fund set aside by the state to offset uncompensated care losses.
Approval is certainly not a sure thing however – there is still considerably resistance to Medicaid expansion among state lawmakers. But the state is facing a budget shortfall of up to $200 million, and Medicaid expansion proponents hope to win over the legislature by focusing on the impact of the federal funding that would flow into the state if Medicaid were expanded.
Previous expansion discussions
The legislature in Wyoming voted in 2014 to block Medicaid expansion, but they directed Governor Matt Mead and the state Health Department to continue negotiations with the federal government. In November 2014, Governor Mead announced in a press conference that federal officials appeared to be “more open” to his proposals for a state-specific Medicaid expansion plan than they were in the past.
Then on November 26, Governor Mead’s administration released the details of their SHARE (Strategy for Health, Access, Responsibility and Employment) proposal for modified Medicaid expansion. The governor’s proposal included having newly-eligible enrollees pay a small premium ($20 to $50 per month for most households) if their income is between 100 percent and 138 percent of poverty level, and there would also be small copays for most newly-eligible enrollees. Mead’s proposal also included access to vocational rehabilitation and job search services to encourage unemployed enrollees to enter the job market. Officials noted that the job training and placement portion of the program was not a requirement for participation (which would have been a hard sell in terms of winning federal approval), but rather a benefit for enrollees.
Governor Mead’s proposal had not yet been officially approved by HHS, but Mead and his administration were reasonably certain that HHS would ultimately approve their plan for Medicaid expansion, as it had been thoroughly vetted by the federal government and approved as budget neutral for the state.
Lawmakers considered expansion in early 2015…
But it also had to be approved by Wyoming lawmakers, which didn’t happen. Mead noted that if the legislature doesn’t approve his plan, he “would ask and expect them to have an alternative for the 17,000 people” who are currently in the coverage gap in Wyoming (ie, no access to Medicaid or premium subsidies in the exchange).
In December 2014, the Joint Interim Labor, Health, and Social Services Committee approved a different Medicaid expansion bill, created by the committee’s chairman, Charles Scott, a Republican from Casper. This alternative passed the committee by a 10 – 4 vote, but it hadn’t been vetted by the feds, and nobody knew how it would perform from the perspective of the state’s budget. The committee also voted on the SHARE proposal, but it didn’t pass (7-7).
Scott’s alternative proposal – loosely modeled on Indiana’s plan – called for having the Medicaid expansion population put funds into health savings accounts (HSAs), supplemented by additional government funds (since this proposal has not been approved by the federal government, it remained unclear whether the state would have to fund the HSAs rather than relying on federal Medicaid funds). Scott has long advocated for HSAs as a measure of healthcare reform, but they’re rarely useful for people who are living in poverty.
Initially, after the committee vote, it appeared that Wyoming lawmakers would use Scott’s plan as the focus of their Medicaid expansion discussions during the 2015 legislative session. A concern was that the plan has not been approved or even reviewed by HHS, and similar proposals had been rejected by HHS. But then in late January, Indiana announced that their Medicaid expansion waiver had been approved by HHS, creating hope that perhaps Scott’s plan could also get approval.
… but ultimately rejected it
On January 29, 2015 the Senate Labor and Health Committee approved a Medicaid expansion bill (SF 129) that was essentially a combination of the SHARE proposal and Scott’s HSA proposal. The committee voted 4-1 to approve the bill and send it to the Senate floor. But on February 6, the Senate rejected the bill on a 19 – 11 vote.
A House committee had been scheduled to consider another Medicaid expansion proposal on the same day, but the committee abandoned their efforts after seeing the results of the SF 129 vote in the Senate. As a result, Medicaid expansion was off the table for the 2015 legislative session in Wyoming.
Who is currently eligible?
Eligibility is unchanged for now, and remains as it was in 2013. Non-disabled, non-pregnant adults without dependent children are not eligible, regardless of income. The following legally-present Wyoming residents are eligible for Medicaid:
- Parents with dependent children, if their household income is up to 56 percent of poverty (about $11,080 annually for a family of three).
- Pregnant women and children age 0 – 5 with household incomes up to 154 percent of poverty.
- Children 6 – 18 are eligible for Medicaid with household incomes up to 133 percent of poverty.
- All children are eligible for separate CHIP with household incomes up to 200 percent of poverty.
- The Pregnant by Choice program provides no-cost family planning services to women who enroll within 60 days postpartum and have household incomes that do not exceed 159 percent of poverty.
How do I enroll?
- You can enroll online through HealthCare.gov (or call 1-800-318-2596 for phone assistance at HealthCare.gov)
- You can enroll online through the State Department of Health application website.
- You can print an application in English or Spanish and mail it to the Wyoming Department of Health (address here).
- Once you have coverage, you can use the Wyoming Medicaid client portal, or contact their customer service department at 1-800-251-1269.
2013 – 2015: overall enrollment declines 4%
Medicaid enrollment runs year-round, but tends to spike during open enrollment because of outreach efforts on the part of enrollment assisters. 2,216 people enrolled in Wyoming Medicaid from October 2013 through April 2014, through HealthCare.gov. Another 847 people enrolled in Medicaid through Healthcare.gov during the second open enrollment period. All of them were already eligible under the existing rules, but had not enrolled prior to October 2013.
People cycle in and out of Medicaid eligibility though, and from the fall of 2013 to July 2015, the net total enrollment in Wyoming’s Medicaid program actually decreased by about 3,000 people – a four percent decline. Wyoming and Nebraska are the only states where total Medicaid/CHIP enrollment decreased during that time period.
If Medicaid is not expanded in Wyoming, there are 17,390 people who will remain in the coverage gap and have no realistic access to health insurance. They do not qualify for Medicaid, and they are not eligible for subsidies in the exchange because their incomes are too low.