By Ruffin Prevost
CODY, Wyo. (Reuters) - The Wyoming Senate on Friday rejected a bill that would have supported the state's expansion of the Medicaid program for the poor under President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law, effectively shutting the door for the remainder of year.
Opponents of the measure in the Republican-dominated state senate voiced concerns about possible complications with its implementation, and argued that increased health spending would add to the federal debt.
A companion bill in the state's House of Representatives was pulled from committee as well on Friday.
"Many Senators campaigned on the promise to not expand Medicaid services," said Senate President Phil Nicholas after a 19-11 vote against the measure, adding that the chamber still worked "incredibly hard" to craft a bill that would have been revenue-neutral.
Republican Elaine Harvey, chair of the House Labor, Health and Social Services Committee, said "the House could amend this, but it would be an exercise in futility. The Senate won't pass this no matter what we do."
Republican Governor Matt Mead originally opposed any expansion of Medicaid, and had even been among a group of Republican governors who sued the federal government over Obamacare.
But changed his mind and in November said that an expansion would help the state make up for $200 million in costs absorbed by hospitals for uncompensated care, and could help more than 17,000 low-income residents.
"I believe that Wyoming's working poor need health care coverage," Mead said in a statement released after the Senate voted against the bill. "We must recognize what health care means to individuals and to our economy."
Mead said the state fought against Obamacare and lost, and that a failure to expand Medicaid would mean "rejecting $120 million dollars meant for Wyoming."
Last Tuesday, Indiana became the 28th state to expand the program under the healthcare reform law. The move, supported by a staunchly conservative Republican governor, will extend health coverage to some 350,000 low-income residents.
(Editing by Curtis Skinner)