It’s disappointing to see Wyoming legislators and the governor still playing partisan games with healthcare. They have been unable to develop a single effective strategy to provide care for the uninsured and are yet intent on fighting The Affordable care Act. This year’s presidential election was a referendum on the law. Called “the signature accomplishment” of Obama’s first term, Republicans never quit opposing the law. Governor Romney promised its repeal “on day one.” When the voters chose Barack Obama over Romney they were fully aware they were giving up on the last chance to avoid implementation the law.
The political and legal barricades are removed. As the political smoke clears, most people of good faith recognize the law provides enormous opportunities for improving health care for Wyoming children and families.
In the months following the law’s passage, Wyoming legislators placed their hopes in the US Supreme Court and coming elections. Key legislators including Senator Charles Scott blocked the implementation. Senator Leslie Nutting sponsored legislation making it a felony to implement it. Scott predicted 2010 elections would produce enough new Republican members of congress that the act would be repealed. When that didn’t happen, they counted on the Supreme Court to throw out the law. When that dream died, they put all their eggs in Romney’s basket…with equal success.
The clock didn’t stop. Key deadlines came and went. Others approached. Expectations the law would vanish created political paralysis. Now we’re beyond the unrequited hopes of Wyoming legislators. Like it or not, Obamacare is the law of the land. It will be implemented. Our political leaders must ask what they can do to make certain the law works effectively for Wyoming’s people.
The state dawdled on creating a health insurance exchange. It’s just as well. The exchange works best if state policy makers are sincere and piece it together with the full intention of making the law work. Until now, Wyoming’s head wasn’t there. Now perhaps?
The exchanges were actually a part of the law assuring there is no federal takeover of health insurance, as opponents often claimed. The exchange creates an online marketplace, personalized to each state’s needs and accessible to individuals and small businesses allowing them to make educated choices among private insurance plans meeting important criteria for both benefits and consumer protections.
A handful of states have already established exchanges. Wyoming has not. The state’s failure to act doesn’t mean the exchange won’t be created. Curiously or better yet, ironically, Wyoming politicians who never miss an opportunity to grandstand against federal interference are still dragging their right feet. They appear inexplicably willing to allow the feds to control the process. That’s partisan politics at it’s most bewildering. They’re intent on being “right” and wrong at the same time.
There are good reasons we should do it for ourselves. Exchanges must be established in a manner that carefully integrates other state health programs. Presumably we know better than the federal government the unique health needs among the people of our uniquely rural state.
It’s also time to decide whether to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. Prior to the election this issue was politically loaded. No Republican governor wanted to be seen cavorting with the new law. Now we can put politics aside and simply do what is best for the state. There’s little question that what is best is to take advantage of the opportunity the ACA affords by expanding Medicaid to provide insurance for some 30,000 Wyoming people who have no health insurance today.
Doing so, Wyoming reaps the windfall of the federal government paying nearly all the cost while millions in state tax dollars, now spent on programs to provide care for the uninsured, can be rechanneled or saved. Dollars coming into the state via Medicaid will not only assure better heath care for our citizens but will build Wyoming’s medical infrastructure.
Republican legislators need to get over it. Obamacare should no longer simply be a partisan, political issue. The issue should now be simply health care.