State lawmakers should consider imposing a moratorium on licensing new hospitals that don't take Medicare and Medicaid patients, Eric Boley, president of the Wyoming Hospital Association, said.
Boley presented the idea this past week to the Legislature's Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Interim Committee.
The committee took no action, but some lawmakers said they will continue to watch the issue.
An out-of-state company that recently opened a medical center in Casper doesn't accept Medicare or Medicaid and is expanding to other parts of the state, Boley said.
By taking only patients with insurance, Wyoming's other hospitals will have a disproportionate number of patients on Medicare and Medicaid, and will struggle financially as a result, he said. The government health programs reimburse at lower rates than private insurance.
"All we want is a level playing field," Boley said.
The Wyoming Hospital Association is mostly comprised of hospitals that accept Medicaid and Medicare.
Rep. Norine Kasperik, R-Gillette, tells the Casper Star-Tribune that the issue needs to be studied.
"It's somewhat new to Wyoming," said Kasperik, a retired nurse. "It's not new across the country. I struggle with stepping into a free marketplace."
Committee co-chairman Sen. Charlie Scott (R-Casper) said he will continue to watch the growth of hospitals that don't accept Medicare and Medicaid.
"We're going to have to look at some creative solutions," Scott said.
He expressed disappointment that more hospitals didn't participate in a study that lawmakers commissioned to help them understand hospital issues in Wyoming. The survey asked a variety of questions about how the hospital is governed, cash reserves and construction projects.
Only 14 of the state's 31 hospitals responded to the survey, which was part of a 126-page report about health care in the state, by the Wyoming Legislative Service Office, the nonpartisan staff of the Legislature.
If hospitals aren't willing to open up about their financial problems, then they must not have any dire needs for the Legislature to address, Scott said.