WYOMING – A bill expanding Medicaid eligibility in Wyoming passed through the Labor committee Wednesday and will now be considered by the whole of the House.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Andy Schwartz, D-Teton, believes that expanding Medicaid access in Wyoming is necessary for both economic and medical reasons.

“When people have access to healthcare, they tend to be healthier in the long run. More people receiving preventative care means fewer people with preventable diseases later,” Schwartz said. “If you don’t have insurance, you may have to go to the emergency room for something that could be taken care of in a regular visit. The bills are too high to pay, so the hospitals take a loss of about $130 million/year. This makes healthcare more expensive for everyone. We can help put an end to that, keep our people healthy, and help make sure our doctors and hospitals stay in business.”

Schwartz promised his constituents during a campaign run last fall that Medicaid expansion would be at the top of his list of concerns.

“I will have two bills in my quiver and Medicaid expansion is one,” Schwartz said recently just before heading to Cheyenne for the legislative session. “I’m hoping we can use recent momentum so the 30,000 people in Wyoming with no access to insurance can get it. Because hospitals cannot turn away patients, so many rural hospitals are in the state are in jeopardy of going bankrupt.”

The bill passed out of committee with bipartisan support. House Majority Floor Leader Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, voted in favor of the bill because he believes the topic should be openly debated.

“It’s a discussion we should have, to make sure we’re doing what’s best for the people of Wyoming. Health insurance can be a complicated subject, and it deserves our full attention,” he said.