Rex Arney: Thank Chip Neiman For Another Failure Of Medicaid Expansion

Guest columnist Rex Arney writes: Maybe it is time for Wyoming voters, through the initiative process, to place Medicaid Expansion on the ballot for consideration in the 2024 general election.

Rex Arney

February 09, 20234 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Once again efforts to pass Medicaid Expansion in the Wyoming Legislature has been thwarted, this time by one person – Rep. Chip Neiman. 

Despite strong public support, Neiman altered the destiny of this legislation in his role as House majority floor leader.

Traditionally, House leadership positions go to members who have seniority by virtue of their time in the House. Not this time. Neiman had just completed his first term in the House and, nevertheless, secured this important leadership position with a one-vote margin over a veteran legislator thanks to the support of the House Freedom Caucus. 

The power of the majority floor leader cannot be overstated. Neiman serves as the “gate-keeper,” deciding which bills will continue moving through the House. But if he doesn’t like a bill for any reason or no reason at all, it’s dead. 

While House Rules make it possible to override his decision; it would take a two-thirds majority of all House members to wrest the bill away from their majority leader’s grip, and that is not something that will happen.

This brings us to what happened Feb. 6, the deadline to consider bills in the House Committee of the Whole. On this final day, Neiman refused to bring up House Bill 80 for further consideration even though it had been reported out of committee by a 6-3 vote on Jan. 19 and with increased support from the public and the medical community. 

Neiman let the bill to languish on his desk for more than two weeks while other bills of lesser importance and benefit to Wyoming residents were allowed to advance in the House.

In spite of Neiman’s the refusal to allow the bill to be considered, a majority of Wyomingites have indicated they favor the expansion of Medicaid. 

A recent poll released by the American Cancer Society, AARP, American Heart Association and the American Lung Association revealed that 66% of Wyoming residents support expanding Medicaid, and even 58% of Republicans in this deep red state support it. 

Backers of this legislation have pointed out that while over 70,000 people in Wyoming received services through Medicaid in 2022, with the passage of Medicaid Expansion more than 20,000 people would be added to the program. 

Furthermore, Wyoming would realize an estimated $32 million in savings because of Congress’ passage of the American Rescue Plan in 2021 that provided states an additional 5% in the federal match for two years as an incentive to pass it.

What was Neiman’s rationale for blocking this measure that would benefit so many? 

He contended that a number of his fellow House members did not seem to believe that the federal government will continue its 90% federal match to fund the expanded program. 

This is a farfetched notion since Wyoming is one of only 12 states that have not approved expansion and those states only have 26% of U.S. House members and 24% of U.S. Senate members. 

In other words, members in Congress from states that have Medicaid expansion makeup 75% of the members of both bodies. To expect those members to repeal the federal match for Medicaid expansion is a fool’s errand. 

Maybe it is time for Wyoming voters, through the initiative process, to place the proposition on the ballot for consideration in the 2024 general election. The expansion of Medicaid has been successful when voters are allowed to decide in Utah, Idaho, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri and South Dakota (to become effective in mid-2023). 

With the recent experience in these red Republican states, there is every reason to believe that voters in Wyoming would also approve Medicaid expansion if given the opportunity to do so. 

The Wyoming Legislature has had repeated opportunities to expand Medicaid. Now is the time to let the voices of the Wyoming voters to be heard at the ballot box.

Rex Arney, a native Wyomingite, served as a Republican member of the Wyoming House from 1973 through 1976 and in the Wyoming Senate from 1977 until mid-1988 when he resigned to become general counsel for National Endowment for the Humanities.

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