A gray and tan lobby that's mostly empty with a receptionist desk
People walk through the Banner Wyoming Medical Center in Casper in July 2023. (Katie Klingsporn/WyoFile)

New estimates show that more than 10,000 people have lost Medicaid or Kid Care CHIP coverage since the start of a Wyoming eligibility review and removal process in April. 

That’s compared to about 9,000 who’s coverage was renewed for the government programs.

While about 600 of those removed no longer qualify, the Wyoming Department of Health writes, more than 10,000 lost coverage for “procedural reasons.” Those reasons could include not returning or not completing forms.

Three quarters of those procedural terminations involved children, according to the health department, noting that caretakers and providers play an important role in updating addresses and looking out for Medicaid and Kid Care notices.

The lost coverage could put more pressure on hospitals — many of which have been struggling financially since the pandemic — as well as other providers who work directly with the uninsured.  

The state initially estimated between 10,000 and 15,000 people would lose coverage during this process. Being only four months into a full year of review, the disenrollments could easily surpass that, if not balloon multiple times higher.

“Average monthly enrollment in Wyoming Medicaid before the pandemic was around 55,000,” said Medicaid agent and health department administrator Lee Grossman in a press release. “Because eligibility could not be reviewed until recently, this year it’s reached a historic high of about 87,000. It is not unreasonable to expect enrollment to return much closer to the range we saw before the pandemic.”

This review is something that used to happen annually as the state checked back with Medicaid and Kid Care recipients to ensure they were still eligible. That process came to a halt in 2020 as the federal government requested states maintain enrollment during the pandemic in exchange for more funding. The annual renewal process is required by federal regulations, per the Wyoming Health Department. 

Clinics and hospitals

Patients losing coverage will have a “big impact” on the state’s hospital system and those who rely on it, said Wyoming Hospital Association President Eric Boley. 

His first concern was about the uninsured not getting appropriate, regular and preventative care, he said. Beyond that, he said pandemic strains left hospitals with shaky finances. Recovery has been hard for smaller facilities with fewer patients. 

“Most of our hospitals are struggling to a certain degree,” he said. “Our critical access hospitals, many of them are still really, really struggling.”

Treating more people who can’t pay will only add to that challenge, he added, and could contribute to hospitals already considering cutting services like OB-GYN, surgeries, home health care and nursing homes.  

“I mean, the system [as a] whole right now is really in turmoil,” he said. “And in our state, it seems to be exacerbated just because of volume and distances. You know, it’s really hard to create economies of scale and to create the volume that’s necessary to support a lot of these services.”

“Our critical access hospitals, many of them are still really, really struggling.”

Wyoming Hospital Association President Eric Boley

Already, very few facilities offer dialysis in Wyoming for that very reason, he says. 

Facilities working specifically with the uninsured like the Downtown Clinic in Laramie will likely be affected, too, according to the clinic’s executive director Pete Gosar. 

“We’re going to see increases from this,” he said. “Rental assistance ended [too], and so people are just in tougher positions, just by and large overall.”

Gosar noted that costs of having more uninsured people in Wyoming are passed on to everyone else. 

“To pay for that, we raise the cost of services [for] people who can pay, which raises the insurance rates for everybody in Wyoming,” he said. “And so, this does have an impact to everybody in Wyoming.”

Gosar advocates for Medicaid expansion in Wyoming, which the state estimates could cover an additional 19,000 residents.

Boley with the hospital association hopes that some of those who’ve lost coverage are still able to regain it, he said.

“It’s unfortunate that folks are losing out on that opportunity to continue their coverage, and I’m sure there’s a million different reasons why,” he said. “But I hope [health department employees] continue to work with those that haven’t gotten their paperwork back in and find other ways to maybe help them with that so that numbers aren’t as bad as they appear.”

How to regain/retain coverage

Eligibility for Medicaid in Wyoming can be complicated: It doesn’t just rely on someone’s income, but is also based on categories like age or health status. 

There are also special waivers within Wyoming Medicaid that conform to different rules. Those serve people who are older than 65, those with a qualifying disability or people with a brain injury. Even people with these waivers must return forms to continue getting coverage. 

For those who have lost coverage due to “procedural” reasons, the good news is if they can get their paperwork in and re-enroll within 90 days, they can get retroactive coverage for that time, according to the health department. 

Not everyone has received their notices to review their Medicaid or Kid Care CHIP coverage yet, but for those who have, they can update contact information or go through the renewal process online at www.wesystem.wyo.gov or by calling 1-855-294-2127.

There is also the option of looking at other insurance options at enrollwyo.org or work with an insurance navigator, some of which are embedded in larger Wyoming hospitals.

Madelyn Beck reports from Laramie on health and public safety. Before working with WyoFile, she was a public radio journalist reporting for NPR stations across the Mountain West, covering regional issues...

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  1. That’s Republicans for you. There will be lots of financial damage to healthcare workers, higher insurance, etc. But people keep voting them in.

  2. I do wish legislators could get past the political posturing and expand Medicaid. It would help not only 19,000 Wyomingites, but relieve pressure on our struggling hospitals. The ripple effect would be profound for our state!

  3. It is disappointing to see such a great number of losses in this very essential program, essential for the individual or child and for the care provider system in this state. This is compounded by the report that many of these losses are due to failure on the part of the applicant or parent to complete necessary forms even as assistance in this regard is available. What is wrong with this picture — would one get a Driver License renewed if the proper forms were not completed? Wake up, people!

  4. If you look around Wyoming and watch how it funds its infrastructure it is pretty clear that the data indicates our problems are mainly due to sprawl. EMS, water, waste water, dams, roads and hospitals all need a certain threshold of people to remain economically viable, which Mr. Eric Boley describes.

    “And in our state, it seems to be exacerbated just because of volume and distances. You know, it’s really hard to create economies of scale and to create the volume that’s necessary to support a lot of these services.”

    Our legislative process does not look at the issues holistically which leads to wasted investment in a great number of areas.

    1. The elected officials in Wyoming are too busy crowing about rigged elections or phony culture wars to actually make the state a great place to live for its people.