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Wyoming Special Session Slated For Next Week

in News/Coronavirus/politics
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Legislature will convene for a special session next week to address coronavirus vaccination mandates expected to be handed down by the federal government, the Legislative Service Office announced Tuesday.

The Legislature’s leaders, Senate President Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, and House Speaker Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, received a sufficient number of votes affirming the decision to have a special session, the LSO said.

The three-day session will begin at 10 a.m. on Oct. 26.

Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, the Senate’s majority floor leader, explained that despite the fact that about 20 bills could be introduced during the special session, the legislators’ focus would be on vaccine mandates.

“We’re going to keep the topic very narrow, just to mandates,” he told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “We’ve got three bills being worked on right now, and in the broadest terms, one deals with federal overreach, one is about employer mandates and then there’s one about employee rights.”

In September, President Joe Biden announced that federal workers, health care workers and employees at companies that employ more than 100 people will have to be vaccinated against coronavirus or be tested every week for the illness.

However, the Biden administration has not yet released the rules to put the mandate in place. As a result, writing bills in Wyoming for federal policies that are not yet in place could be tricky.

“The LSO has done a phenomenal job with these bills,” Driskill said. “We want to be careful to avoid making a law where Wyoming citizens and employers have to decide between violating a state law or a federal one. It’s really hard to deal with rules that aren’t out there yet.”

Thirty-five Wyoming representatives and 17 senators voted to hold a special session, while 12 representatives and seven senators voted against holding one.

According to the LSO, the Legislature plans to hold committee meetings on Oct. 26. After that, identical versions of any bills to be considered will be worked in each chamber, with the required three reviews of the bills to take place Oct. 27. Then joint conference committee meetings will be held Oct. 28 to resolve any differences between the House and Senate versions of the bills.

Barlow and Dockstader did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Tuesday.

The rules formalizing the schedule will have to be approved by two-thirds of the legislators when they open the session on Oct. 26.

Nine members of Wyoming’s Democratic Caucus told legislative leadership that they would be voting against the session. The legislators included Reps. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, Mike Yin, D-Jackson, Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, and Andi Clifford, D-Riverton, and Sens. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, and Mike Gierau, D-Jackson.

“After considering the $25,000 per day cost of a special session, the lack of released federal rules in regards to how OSHA may enforce vaccine mandates, and the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution that indicates that federal laws override state directives, we believe a special session would be an undue burden to the taxpayer, a waste of time and resources for legislators and our staff, and would further cause an undue burden to Wyoming businesses who would be forced to choose  between following state OR federal law, requiring them to be in violation of one or the other,” the caucus wrote. 

Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, was one of the Republican members of the legislature who also voted against the special session.

“My stance is clear: Our President’s mandate has no place in Wyoming,” Brown said on social media last week. “Unfortunately, we have no clue what his mandate looks like under rule making process and we would be fighting against a rule that doesn’t exist yet. While I believe President Biden’s proposed rule is too far for government to reach, I also believe it is too far for government to enter into the hiring practices of private businesses.”

“If a private business wishes to impose hiring protocols that an employee is uncomfortable with, they have the choice to not enter into that employment,” he continued. “Likewise, the business should be ready to suffer the consequences of the choices they choose to impose or not impose on their employees and the response from the public. Let the business succeed or fail based on their merit, not on government interference.”

Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, was one of the senators who voted to hold the session, posting a photo of his ballot to social media, along with a post-it note containing a message to legislative leadership.

“We now need a special session because the Republican establishment killed my bill on the same subject,” Bouchard wrote on the ballot. “Of course I will vote yes on the special session. Don’t Fauci our Wyoming!”

Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, also voted for the session.

“The dates of October 26-28 have also been scheduled for the special session, which would allow us to pass a bill banning mandates before the Banner Health deadline goes into effect,” Gray wrote on social media. “This is great news for our state! We must stop these radical vaccine mandates.”

Gov. Mark Gordon and Attorney General Bridget Hill are preparing Wyoming’s legal challenge to the federal vaccine mandate when they are finalized. 

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166 New Coronavirus Cases In Wyoming On Tuesday; 407 Recoveries; 3,064 Active

in News/Coronavirus
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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily. 

Wyoming’s active coronavirus case count decreased by 61 on Tuesday.

The Wyoming Department of Health received reports of 407 recoveries among those with confirmed or probable cases on Tuesday. 

At the same time, the state reported 166 new laboratory-confirmed and 236 new probable cases, leaving Wyoming with 3,064 active cases for Tuesday.

Fourteen counties had more than 100 active cases, with six having more than 200.

Natrona County had 541; Freemont 313; Laramie 291; Sheridan 241; Campbell 220; Goshen 159; Uinta 146; Park 143; Albany 137; Sweetwater 117; Washakie 111; Carbon 105; Lincoln 101; Converse 86; Teton 67; Platte 62; Weston 41; Sublette 37; Niobrara 34; Crook 33; Big Horn 32; Johnson had 29; while Hot Springs reported the fewest active cases, with 17.

Active cases are determined by adding the total confirmed and probable coronavirus cases diagnosed since the illness first surfaced in Wyoming on March 12, 2020, subtracting the number of recoveries during the same period among patients with both confirmed and probable cases and taking into account the number of deaths attributed to the illness.

The new confirmed and probable cases brought to 98,567 the number of people diagnosed with coronavirus since the first case was detected in Wyoming in March 2020. Of those, 94,367 have recovered.  

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Good Samaritans & Mystery Tow Truck Driver Find Lost Dog In Snowstorm On I-80

in News/Good news
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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Tammy Davidson didn’t think there were any good guys anymore. 

Then, her faith was restored after a handful of strangers — and an unknown tow truck driver known only as Shawn — went out of their way to help her and her husband find their beloved dachshund after a wreck near Rawlins.

Tammy and her husband David had the bad luck to run into the Oct. 12 snowstorm near Rawlins as they drove on Interstate 80 from their home in Missouri to Washington, where they would be dropping off a trailer for a client.

Tammy recalled David driving the truck across a bridge and the pickup being hit with a gust of snow and wind that jackknifed their trailer and swung them around, causing the pickup to roll over and trapping the two inside the vehicle.

Tammy is not sure how the family’s 12-year-old dachshund “Buddy” got out of the pickup but speculates he might have been thrown through the broken sunroof and gotten lost in the snow.

Buddy’s Gone

Buddy is a service animal for David, who has diabetes. He has never been away from the Tammy and David or even out on his own, let alone in the middle of the snowstorm. 

While the Davidsons waited for emergency responders to come to their aid, all Tammy could think of was that the truck would ignite and they’d be burned in the fire. Then her thoughts turned to Buddy, even as she remained trapped inside the cab of the pickup truck.

Her first words to Wyoming Highway Patrol Trooper Nick Haller, who she said stayed with her in the vehicle, had to do Buddy’s disappearance. 

Although Haller tried to cut Tammy out of the cab, she would not be removed from the pickup truck until firefighters spent 45 minutes cutting her out of the vehicle. She was told she survived only because she had been reclining in her seat. Had she been sitting upright, she would have been crushed on impact. 

From the moment of their rescue, the kindness shown by strangers in Carbon County continued in ways that still blow the Davidsons away as they look back on that terrible day.

After a quick trip to the hospital where they were examined and released with minor cuts and bruises, the Davidsons received an escort to the Best Western Cottontree Inn in Rawlins. 

When the night auditor saw that Tammy was dressed in warm-weather clothing and flip flops, she told her manager Casey Shinkle that she was taking Tammy to Walmart to get some clothes. During the trip, Tammy told the employee about Buddy and the woman immediately took up her cause, explaining the situation to Shinkle.

“We’re all a bunch of animal lovers,” Shinkle told Cowboy State Daily Tuesday, “so we wanted to do whatever we could to help.”

The Search For Buddy

He posted a photo of Buddy on his Facebook page and several others locally and the picture was later shared by radio station KTGA in Saratoga. The post got more than 1,500 shares, Shinkle said, and community members went to work trying to find the dachshund wearing a little brown sweater who was lost in the snow. 

If it hadn’t been in the middle of a snowstorm, Shinkle said he would have gone searching for the dog himself, but instead he and desk clerk Moselle Wolfe and the night auditor did what they could to help spread the word.

That night was probably the longest night of the Davidsons’ lives, Tammy said. The two were absolutely despondent not knowing where Buddy was or if he’d survive the night alone along the highway. 

David took it particularly hard. Tammy can’t remember the last time she saw her husband cry, but that night, the tears flowed. Buddy is not only David’s service animal but travels and sleeps with him when he’s on the road, twice saving his life when his blood sugar levels dropped perilously low.

“We were sick,” Tammy said from her home in Missouri, “and absolutely devastated. Buddy is his lifeline and I was scared David would go into a deep depression.”

Tiny Paw Prints

Finally, about 9 p.m. the next evening, the couple got a call at their hotel room. It was a tow truck driver named Shawn, who had called to say he’d found Buddy when he’d gone back that day to haul out the trailer. 

The driver said he’d followed a set of tiny paw prints through the snow to find the shivering pup near the accident scene. Tammy asked the driver if he’d bring the dog over to their hotel since they had no transportation and the driver agreed.

“David was on cloud nine,” Tammy said when the couple reunited with Buddy in the hotel lobby. “His whole mood. Everything changed. It was such an incredible moment.”

Other than having bloodshot eyes and being very cold, Buddy was just fine and happy to be back with his people, Tammy said.

She thought the tow truck driver worked for Metz Towing, but Cowboy State Daily could not find any such company after making several phone calls to Rawlins businesses.

Apart from all the people who went out of their way to help the couple, the Davidsons were also pleasantly surprised when Quality Motors loaned them a car to drive to Cheyenne to get a rental car.

“I was shocked by the people and how nice they all were to us,” Tammy said. “They did everything for us. There’s usually no good guys anymore but now I have a totally different view.”

For his part, Buddy is happy to be reunited with his “wife” Dora and one of their puppies.

Now safely home, the couple continues to count their blessings as they reflect on the experience.

“God was definitely riding shotgun with us that day,” Tammy said.

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Cheney Calls Trump Remarks on Colin Powell “Pathetic Garbage”; Hageman, Bouchard Mum

in News/Liz Cheney
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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s Congresswoman Liz Cheney on Tuesday was short and to the point when sharing her opinion on former President Donald Trump’s disparaging comments about retired Gen. Colin Powell following his death on Monday.

“Pathetic garbage,” she told Cowboy State Daily.

Trump issued a predictably different tribute to Powell following his death on Monday than those offered by people who worked with the former secretary of state.

“Wonderful to see Colin Powell, who made big mistakes on Iraq and famously, so-called weapons of mass destruction, be treated in death so beautifully by the fake news media,” Trump wrote. 

“He was a classic RINO, if even that, always being the first to attack other Republicans. He made plenty of mistakes, but anyway, may he rest in peace!” he said.

While Cheney criticized Trump for his comments, her main primary opponents offered no response to the former president.

Bouchard offered no comment while Hageman spokesperson Tim Murtaugh declined to comment on the former president’s remarks.

Murtaugh did provide a a statement from Hageman on Powell’s passing

“I respect Colin Powell’s lifelong service to this country.  I am praying for his family and loved ones, and may he rest in peace,” Hageman said.

Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence, had a different opinion than Trump, stating that Powell was a “true American patriot who served our Nation with distinction in uniform.”

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Wyoming Supreme Court To Hear Arguments In Disney Ranch Sale

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The attorneys for the grandson of Walt Disney will argue their case to block the sale of his family’s ranch in Teton County until his appeal of a lower court’s decision on the issue can be heard in front of the Wyoming Supreme Court on Wednesday.

The case involves Bradford Disney Lund’s appeal of a lower court’s decision in January to dismiss his lawsuit challenging the sale of the ranch near Wilson he owns with his sister. The ranch has been in the family since Lund’s father, William Lund, purchased it more than 40 years ago.

Jackson attorney Chris Hawks told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that the legal team expected to hear a decision from the Wyoming Supreme Court within six months of the hearing, but that timeline could change.

“We’re arguing that Bradford Lund is one of the beneficial owners of the ranch,” Lund attorney Sandra Slaton told Cowboy State Daily. “He has a vested interest in that ranch. The trust legally owns the ranch, but the trustees are supposed to do what is in the beneficiary’s best interest.”

This appeal is the latest in Lund’s attempt to keep trustees from selling the 110-acre Eagle South Fork ranch near Wilson against his will.

The ranch has remained in residuary trusts for Lund and his sister following the death of their mother, Sharon Disney Lund.

“To keep the ranch means a lot to me,” Lund told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “It would be a very big loss for the family history to sell that ranch.”

The trustees include L. Andrew Gifford, Robert L. Wilson, Douglas Strode, and the financial trustee bank, the First Republic Trust Co.

Lund is challenging efforts by the trustees to sell the ranch to a third party, saying it would be a violation of his mother’s wishes that the ranch remain available for the use of her children.

Lund filed a lawsuit in state district court in Teton County to stop the trustees from selling the ranch and seeking a court order to make trustees comply with an earlier agreement to have the trust set up for Lund’s benefit pay $9.79 million to buy the half of the ranch held in the trust set up for his sister. The purchase would make Lund sole owner of the ranch.

The trustees then moved to dismiss the case to California instead of Wyoming because they claimed it was more convenient. The court granted that motion and dismissed the case.

Immediately after the decision was announced in January, the trustees announced they had an offer from a third party to buy the ranch.  If the ranch is sold, the trustees will each get a 2% commission, nearly $700,000, from the sale.

Lund is appealing the state district court’s decision, saying the judge abused his discretion when it found that “the private- and public-interest factors strongly outweighed the deference owed to (Lund’s) choice of forum,” according to a brief filed with the Supreme Court.

In his appeal Lund insists that the decision on the sale of Eagle South Fork be determined by Wyomingites that are close to the property and understand its true value and worth.

The legal action is one of several involving Lund and the trustees. He is suing in California courts over their management of five separate trusts established for his benefit.

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Uh-Oh, Wyoming Has Shortage of Snowplow Drivers

in News/Transportation
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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

The snowstorm that hit Wyoming two weeks ago placed in sharp relief the shortage of qualified snowplow drivers needed to keep the state’s  highways clear during weather events. 

Luke Reiner, director of the Wyoming Department of Transportation, told  Cowboy State Daily that there are many WYDOT stations around the state that are not staffed as well as the department would like.

“We’re probably about 15% down in our permanent staffing in terms of snowplow drivers,” he said. “And then additionally, we always hire about 40 temporary technicians every year, and have really had a lot of difficulty hiring those.”

In an effort to keep roads open during winter weather events, Reiner said the department has a few strategies. One is the department’s “Snow Plan,” a system of prioritizing roads for clearing which he said worked well last year.

“We said, ‘Hey, every road is not created equal,’” he explained. “And so we’re going to prioritize our interstates, and those are 24-hour roads, and then we’ve got some other roads that are 20 hours, and we will keep that plan in place.”

Additionally, Reiner said the department can move available staff around the state to work on roads that are hardest hit.

“If it’s not a storm that’s across the entire state, we have sent operators from one area to another,” he said, pointing out how the department managed staff during last winter’s major snowstorm in the southeast corner of Wyoming. “So the crews in the southeast, they worked locally, and they started working outward. And then we had crews that attacked it from the north and from the west. And so we used all available forces to clear the roads really, pretty dramatically fast.”

But the shortage of full-time workers was painfully felt in the northeast corner of the state earlier in October. So Reiner said the department used all the resources it had available.

“Anybody who … had a (commercial drivers license) and that was qualified to run a plow truck, they put in a plow truck,” he said. “So mechanics that used to be maintainers, and safety officers that used to be maintainers, and traffic techs that used to be maintainers. In my mind, that was great initiative, and a great use of available resources.”

Reiner also said that the department will continue to implement “rolling closures” on I-80 during major snow events – closing the interstate miles before the actual problem area, near communities that have restaurants and lodging, in order to spread out available resources for travelers who are stranded by a storm.

“So you go back to the population center that is not affected by the storm and close the road there, so that you can start stacking trucks and handling the interstate traffic, because there’s no room at the road where (the closure) is at,” he explained. “It’s a good thing for our trucks, it’s a good thing for the communities, just controlling traffic.”

But the methods the department is using to address the staff shortages are just short-term solutions, which Reiner said officials recognize.

“As a state we’re taking a look at our compensation plan, because our state’s compensation plan has really not been adjusted significantly for some time,” he said. “And the discussion we’re starting to have is, it’s probably time to change that, because while there’s a shortage across the board, our compensation plan really doesn’t compete in terms of attracting men and women to our service.”

And it’s not just snowplow drivers that the department is short on — Reiner said the Wyoming Highway Patrol is also currently understaffed.

“Safety on our roads is more than plows,” Reiner said. “It’s having somebody out there to man the gates, having somebody out there to respond to the accidents when they happen. And in our troopers we’re about 15% down.”

Reiner had high praise for the people who already make up the staff of the Wyoming Department of Transportation.

“I thank the hard working men and women of WYDOT for what they’re doing for this state across the board,” he noted. “And we have lots of job openings, working for a fantastic organization. So if you want a great job, please come join us.”

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Wyoming Health Department Announces 56 More Deaths Tied To COVID

in News/Coronavirus
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The number of Wyoming deaths blamed on coronavirus since it was first detected in March 2020 has increased to 1,136, the Wyoming Department of Health announced Tuesday.

The department said the deaths of 56 Wyoming residents were linked to the coronavirus in September and October.

Nine deaths were reported among Natrona County residents, five men and four women, and seven were hospitalized for treatment.

Campbell County reported eight residents died in September and October, five women and three men, while eight Sheridan County residents, five women and three men, also died within the last two months.

Victims also included six Laramie County residents, three men and three women, five Fremont County residents, three men and two women, and four Big Horn County residents, three men and one woman.

Other victims included a Converse County man, two Goshen County men, a Johnson County man, a Sheridan County man and woman, two Sublette County men, two Sweetwater County men, a Sweetwater County woman, a Teton County woman, two Washakie County women, a Washakie County man and a Weston County man.

The announcement was made as the state reported the number of active coronavirus cases in the state declined by 61 on Tuesday from Monday to total 3,064.

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Barrasso: ‘I’m Pro-Vaccine And Anti-Mandate’

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By CJ Baker, Powell Tribune

While some Wyomingites and Republican officials have been hesitant to endorse the COVID-19 vaccines, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso has no such qualms.

“As a doctor, I believe in vaccines. Vaccines work,” Barrasso said in a Thursday interview in Powell. The senator, who is a medical doctor, praised the work that was done to develop the COVID vaccines quickly and said they have his support.

“If you have questions, check with your own doctor,” Barrasso said, encouraging people to talk with healthcare providers they trust. “But I’ve been vaccinated, I’ve had the booster, my wife’s been vaccinated, my kids have all been vaccinated.”

However, Barrasso also described himself as anti-mandate.

“I just think it’s important for people to make their own decisions and not be told that they have to do something,” he said. “That doesn’t work with people in Wyoming. I think it just hardens folks when Washington tries to tell us to do anything.”

Wyoming lawmakers are set to hold a special session later this month to address the Biden administration’s plans to require many Americans to receive vaccinations.

In general, Barrasso complained that Democrats are not involving Republicans in decisions at a time when the 100-member Senate is evenly split between the two parties.

“…. They’re trying to cram things down the throats of the American people — whether it has to do with taxes, spending, borrowing, American energy, all of those things that are to the far left,” he said, “things that I believe of as being radical and extreme and dangerous and scary.”

He described the Republicans as trying to derail “a freight train to socialism that the Democrats are trying to drive down the tracks.”

Earlier, Barrasso fielded a series of questions from Powell Middle School students, including on the hardest parts of being a senator. He said one difficulty is that just about every bill features some sections that are good for Wyoming and others that are not.

“That’s really the challenge,” Barrasso said. “Because you can’t make everybody happy when you can’t get the bill perfect for what you’d like. … Ultimately, they call your name, and you have to vote.”

The senator also said it’s difficult when a good idea fails to work out as legislation, noting that it took a couple tries to pass the popular Hathaway Scholarship program when he served in the Wyoming Legislature. He also encouraged the students to be positive, confident and optimistic during hard times.

Barrasso opened his talk with a couple questions of his own, including asking if any of the Powell students wanted to be president of the United States. A few put up their hands and explained their goals; one student said she would seek to make the news media tell the truth and another potential presidential candidate drew a big ovation after saying he would “make America great again.”

Barrasso told the students that “we are a great nation,” recalling that his late father, a World War II veteran, frequently told him “you don’t know how fortunate you are.”

“… Every day as a senator,” he said, “I thank God for the incredible blessings we have and try to work to make it better.”

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Bouchard Not Dropping Out Despite Campaign Donation Slowdown

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Congressional candidate state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, has no intention of dropping out of the race, despite a significant slowdown of donations to his campaign fund.

Bouchard campaign spokeswoman April Poley told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that the senator was not currently focused on fundraising, but on other, more pressing issues.

“He is focused on several state issues right now, primarily the sexual harassment issue in the Wyoming National Guard, COVID mandates and red flag gun laws,” Poley said.

A “red flag” gun law is one that allows police or family members to petition a court for an order to temporarily confiscate a person’s firearms.

Bouchard came in fourth for campaign fundraising for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat in the third quarter of the year with $65,560, putting his total campaign donations for the year at $526,600.

Federal Election Commission reports show U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney received $1.7 million between July 1 and Sept. 30, followed by Harriet Hageman, who raised $301,921 even though she did not join the race until early September, with less than one month to go in the fundraising reporting cycle.

State Rep. Chuck Gray, who stepped out of the race when Hageman announced her candidacy and won the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, collected $113,195 during the quarter.

Poley said that Hageman should have raised even more money in September because of the national attention she received with her endorsement by Trump.

Bouchard raised $334,451 in the first quarter of 2021 and $213,327 in the second.

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Poll: Majority Of Wyoming Voters Support Medicaid Expansion

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A majority of Wyoming voters questioned in a recent survey support the expansion of Medicaid to provide health insurance coverage for more people, a new poll released by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network showed.

The poll also found many Wyoming residents are concerned about their health care situation. More than one in four said they are worried that they will lose health insurance, and many have lacked health insurance in the past three years.

Wyoming is one of 12 states that has not expanded Medicaid. If it did, around 24,000 additional state residents could have access to health insurance through the federal program.

The poll of 500 registered voters, which was conducted by New Bridge Strategy, showed that 66% of Wyoming residents polled supported expanding Medicaid.

Support for expansion spanned political party lines, although it was not uniform. According to the survey, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.38%, 58% of Wyoming Republicans and 64% of Wyoming Independents questioned supported expansion, while 98% of Wyoming Democrats supported it.

“The latest Wyoming Department of Health numbers suggest an estimated 29% of new enrollees in Wyoming would be between the ages of 50 and 64. These are our neighbors and co-workers and when they thrive, so do we. We know that access to care makes it easier to work, find a new job, pay for basic needs and succeed in today’s economy,” said Sam Shumway, AARP Wyoming state director.

Additionally, nearly two-thirds of Wyoming voters polled said they know someone who would benefit from Medicaid expansion and more than one in four (27%) said they are worried that they or someone in their household will be without health insurance in the next year.

“Our neighbors in Montana, Nebraska, Utah and Idaho are all benefiting from extending health coverage to low-income residents – it’s time for Wyoming to join them,” said R.J. Ours, ACS CAN Wyoming government relations director. “These results show people’s very real concerns about cost of care and access to it for themselves and their families. They’re picturing loved ones who may be struggling to see doctors, pay for medications and get the care they need.”

Additional findings from the poll included:

  • 65% of residents said they want their state legislator to support Medicaid expansion;
  • More than half of voters say the health care system is not meeting the needs of working, lower-income residents, and
  • Nearly one in three of those surveyed say health care costs and access to care are the most important issues in Wyoming.

“Regardless of political party or region of the state, Wyoming residents want our family, friends and neighbors to have health care,” said Richard Garrett, American Heart Association of Wyoming government relations director. “It’s great to see this level of support across the state, and we will be working hard with lawmakers to make sure that we increase access to health care for those who need it most.”

During their 2021 general session, Wyoming legislators considered a proposal to increase access to care by expanding Medicaid to roughly 24,000 residents. The bill passed the House, but fell short by one vote of winning needed approval from a Senate committee.

Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, recently penned an opinion piece that took a stance against Medicaid expansion in Wyoming.

“If Wyoming expands Medicaid, our hospitals will lose over $16 million in annual revenues, meaning fewer hospital jobs and fewer beds available,” Driskill wrote. “And if we ever do expand, I believe a new hospital tax will be needed to cover Wyoming’s share of extra costs.”

Speaker of the Wyoming House of Representatives Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, a supporter of the Legislature’s most recent Medicaid expansion bill, did not immediately respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment.

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