As the dust clears, Wyoming voters are scratching their heads. How is it the legislature trusted the feds to pay their share 20 million dollars in Medicaid costs for increasing services to 606 people on the Developmentally Disabled (DD) services wait-list but weren’t willing to trust them to pay their share of expanding Medicaid to 17,600 uninsured citizens?
Interestingly, Senator Charles Scott and Governor Matt Mead played significant roles in both.
Charlie Scott has been a legislator since 1979. He had served more than a dozen years when voters passed a referendum setting term limits. Scott survived the will of the voters when and he and fellow legislators passed a countervailing statute “limiting” themselves to 12 years in each the senate and the house. A twenty-four year limit seemed generous. It wasn’t enough. Legislators convinced the court to overturn the law. Now there are no limits.
Charlie Scott is the poster-child for what happens without them.
During those 35 years, he’s influenced decisions harmful to children and families. In a legislative body where too many are too willing to let someone else do the heavy lifting on complex issues, they permit Scott to be the “expert” on issues ranging from health care and workers’ compensation to juvenile justice, mental health, Medicaid, welfare reform, and juvenile justice.
To counterfeit-coin a phrase, “Want to keep the beer cold? Keep it next to Charlie Scott’s heart.”
In addition, his colleagues have abdicated to Scott the gerrymandering of legislative districts every decade.
That’s a lot of power for one legislator. Scott uses it arbitrarily to further his agenda. Last year, he engineered passage of a law reducing services to DD recipients. Hundreds of citizens were on wait-lists for services. Scott engineered legislation requiring the Health Department to serve them without new funding. Scott demanded that those receiving services receive fewer services in order to provide fewer services than necessary to those who were waiting.
Governor Mead signed the bill into law.
During the same 2013 legislative session, the governor refused to take responsibility for the Medicaid expansion decision, turning it over to legislators. That meant handing it off to Senator Scott. Scott had already made a career of opposing anything-Obamacare. Allowing Scott to take the lead meant the issue became centerpiece for his anti-Obama campaign regardless of the human cost.
Whether the governor recognized the mistake, it was thankfully not one he repeated with the DD funding controversy.
Mead led, taking the issue out of Scott’s hands. The governor demonstrated political courage in the face of Scott’s efforts to reduce services to the DD community. He went directly to the legislature with a budget request of $10.1 million state dollars, which when matched with federal Medicaid will cut the waiting list by more than 50% without reducing services to existing recipients.
Why the different outcome for the 606 people on the DD wait list as opposed to the 17,600 on the health insurance wait list? The answer lies in the role played by the governor.
Mead watched last spring as several hundred DD clients, families, and providers went to the streets in communities throughout the state to protest Charlie Scott’s mishandling of their lives. They marched in Cheyenne, Casper, Riverton, Rock Springs, and other communities. They made it clear Scott’s solution was too harmful to their lives for them to sit idly.
Mead met with those impacted by Senator Scott’s ill-conceived legislation and, to his credit, he listened to their stories. Mead then seized the initiative from Scott.
Despite partisan claims that the feds can’t be trusted to pay their share of Medicaid expansion, the governor trusted them to match millions of state dollars he used to fund DD services. Those DD services will cost state taxpayers 10.1 million dollars. Medicaid expansion would have saved them tens-of-millions.
Once he moved Scott out of the way, Mead got it right for those 606 DD families. Hopefully he’ll sideline Scott and do what’s right for the 17,600 people waiting for Medicaid expansion.