Senate Medicaid expansion bill faces next challenge in committee
By Ron Feemster
— February 14, 2014
The staged Medicaid expansion bill proposed by Sen. Chris Rothfuss (D-Laramie) was introduced in the Senate Friday by a vote of 21-9 to the surprise of many advocates who spent the last year pushing other bills that failed.
The bill, Senate File 118, was written to be a broad compromise that incorporated ideas from a wide variety of bills with diverse supporters. The bill had 16 co-sponsors from both chambers.
Health advocates and Medicaid supporters outside the Senate chamber were amazed as they looked over the roll call vote. The same Senate defeated a simple Medicaid expansion bill last year by a vote of 20-10. Medicaid expansion picked up 11 votes in a year, at least for introduction.
“It took a little bit of work,” Rothfuss told WyoFile. “I think there were a lot of people in the Senate that were interested in bringing it to debate, not supporting expansion, but the opportunity to discuss it. I appreciate that.”
The bill will get an energetic reworking in committees and on the floor of both houses, according to legislators who did not want to disclose their plans for the bill on the record.
“I’m sure we’ll amend it in committee,” one House member whispered. But for that member, and others who tried to draft a successful Medicaid expansion bill this year, even hoping to see the bill in the House is optimistic.
Rep. Eric Barlow (R-Gillette) presented House Bill 161, a Medicaid expansion bill that he designed to be palatable to a broad spectrum of lawmakers. The bill was defeated by a vote of 33-25 several hours after SF 118 was introduced.
The Senate assigned SF 118 to its Labor Health committee, which is chaired by Sen. Charles Scott (R-Casper). The chairman said Thursday that he is staunchly opposed to the bill. Scott is fed up with the Affordable Care Act in general, and said the Senate’s overall dissatisfaction with the ACA led to the defeat of his “Obamacare Relief” bill 19-11.
“I don’t think you could pass any Medicaid expansion bill this year,” Scott said.
Scott is the gatekeeper on all health care legislation that moves through the Senate. He voted against this bill as well as another, which he himself authored.
“I hope we’ll be able to have a robust discussion in the Senate Labor committee and hopefully bring it to the floor,” Rothfuss said. “There have been all new topics, new areas of policy discussion since last year when we debated it in the floor.”
Last year’s Medicaid Expansion bill nearly died in the Labor Health committee, which Scott chairs. But Scott decided to pass it out of committee to the Senate Floor with a “do not pass” recommendation.
Many people have fought for Medicaid expansion since the 2013 session ended. They might be happy with that same outcome in Labor Health again this year.
— WyoFile reporter Gregory Nickerson contributed to this story.
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