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Health Care for the Poor: Medicaid

Greetings WAC Community,

Is there no balm in Gilead?  Is there no physician there?  Why then is there no healing for my people?  – Jeremiah 8:22

Healing is an underlying theme in the Bible.  Healing is viewed as what needs to be available to everyone who has faith.  In the United States we have a mixed view about who should have access to health care.  Should access for healing be a privilege or a right?

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicaid into law that provides basic health care for the poor.  Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act would have allowed health care coverage for Wyoming’s poor between the ages of 19 and 65 without minor children.  We know that the Wyoming State Legislature refused Medicaid expansion despite the financial benefits to the State of Wyoming and despite the overwhelming support for it from Wyoming’s organizations and citizens.

Now Medicaid for the poor is at risk.  Congress is considering major changes that affect more than dismantling the Affordable Care Act of 2014.  The Native American population is at greatest risk with the proposed changes, because now the federal government pays 100% of Medicaid costs for enrolled members of federally recognized tribes and who qualify for Medicaid.

Currently, Medicaid costs (for those not American Indians) are shared between states and the federal government.  The funding is open-ended, so the federal government pays its percentage of whatever states spend. Under the bill now being considered by Congress, the amount of federal funding would be capped on a per-person basis, so funding would go up as more people qualify.  Capping federal contributions to the Medicaid program will likely force states with already tight budgets to limit eligibility and cut benefits to at-risk poor, according to the American Public Health Association.  Like in Wyoming, right?

Wyoming sent a joint resolution urging the United States Congress to continue to provide 100% federal coverage for Medicaid for American Indians.  HEJR No. 0001, originally HJ 08 (click here to view the bill),passed the Wyoming legislature with only one dissenting vote and was signed by Wyoming Governor Matt Mead.

The State of Wyoming does not want the loss of 100% coverage for Native Americans should Medicaid go to the proposed per capita approach.  The State of Wyoming should not have to make up that difference, because health care for Native Americans is a federal responsibility under the U.S. constitution, treaties, court decisions and statutes.  Currently, nearly half of the health care costs on the Wind River Reservation are covered by Medicaid.

A change in Medicaid to a per capita approach in a state where health care costs are high and some community hospitals are struggling financially could be devastating. But especially hard hit will be Native Americans who rely on their health care from the facilities on the Wind River Reservation.

Action:  Call our congressional delegation’s Wyoming offices to request continuing 100% Medicaid coverage for Native Americans, pursuant to the Joint Resolution.

  • Sen. John Barrasso 772-2451
  • Sen. Mike Enzi’s office: 772-2471
  • Rep. 7722595

Fear not. Be bold. Do justice.

Blessings,

Chesie

P.S. The Wyoming Association of Churches appreciates your many financial gifts for our justice work in Wyoming for the oppressed.  Click here.  Or mail your contribution to WAC, PO Box 1473, Laramie, WY 82073. You may designate your gift to the Wind River Native Advocacy Center.

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