Wyoming Legislature to OK bill to fund hospitals

The Wyoming Legislature has been giving millions of dollars to hospitals. Hospitals have been having trouble caring for uninsured patients can have a little more cash in their hands to make everyone happy. Since the program began in July 2015, $1.3 million has been given to 18 hospitals. $700,000 more has been given since June 2016. This was the compromise to rejecting the expansion of Medicaid.

The proposal will give a total of about $2.5 million to the state’s 26 hospitals to help them with their uncompensated charity care, which are services that hospitals provide for low-income residents who can’t afford to pay their bills.

This includes a $2 million general fund appropriation that will be split among all hospitals, with one-third of that amount going to large hospitals and two-thirds going to smaller hospitals that have 25 beds or fewer.

The bill originally included $10 million in funding. However, that amount was whittled down as the bill went through the legislative process.

Sen. R. Ray Peterson, R-Cowley, who sponsored the bill, acknowledged that this is just a one-time appropriation that only makes a small dent in the $200 million worth of uncompensated care costs that the hospitals face each year.

But he said it is at least a short-term fix that could provide some needed help. He said some of the small rural hospitals, in particular, could use the money.

But others argued that passing a Medicaid expansion plan would have been a better option, since that would reduce uncompensated care costs by about $10 million each year.

Neil Hilton, vice president of the Wyoming Hospital Association, also said this will not solve all of the hospitals’ problems. But he said the legislation will be beneficial.

“We know for a fact that hospitals are in need, and there aren’t any renegade hospitals that are going to squander away these dollars,” he said. “The hospitals are going to be very appreciative of these dollars, and they will be squarely put to good use.”

Hilton added that this is “a big deal,” especially for the five small critical access hospitals that will be eligible for the $1 million grant program.

The bill will now go to Gov. Matt Mead for his signature or veto.

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