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.