- Associated Press - Friday, October 9, 2015

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - One of the two companies offering health insurance coverage in Wyoming under the federal health care law has decided to drop out of the program after receiving word that the federal government would be providing drastically less financial help than it expected.

The news comes as state leaders debate whether the federal government can be trusted to help pay for expansion of a health insurance program for the working poor.

WINHealth President and CEO Stephen Goldstone said the company was expecting about $5 million in federal reimbursements for medical care, but it was told Oct. 1 that it could expect only $638,000 through the federal Affordable Care Act.

About 7,500 Wyoming residents have signed up with WINHealth through the federal health care exchange program, Goldstone said. The exchange is an Internet site that allows people to buy health insurance and qualify for federal tax credits to help pay for it.

WINHealth will provide care for those people who continue to pay their premiums until Dec. 31, Goldstone said. After that they will have to find another provider under the exchange.

Their only choice for a private health insurance provider under the program now in Wyoming is Blue Cross Blue Shield. Spokeswomen for the company were out of the office Thursday and not immediately available for comment.

Deputy State Insurance Commissioner Jeff Rude said WINHealth’s decision means consumers don’t have a choice on insurance providers, although Blue Cross Blue Shield offers a couple of dozen insurance plans. “Certainly you want another company to come in and maybe offer a little different network with different providers,” Rude said.

Ben Wakana, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement that federal officials will continue to work with the state Insurance Department to protect consumers and respond to concerns from insurance companies.

WINHealth had invested much time and effort into working with the federal health care law, which was enacted by President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress, Goldstone said. “We have probably invested well over $2.5 million since 2013 to prepare for and implement our participating in the exchange,” he said.

Republican Gov. Matt Mead is urging the state Legislature to accept federal funding to expand the Medicaid program, which provides health insurance coverage to low income people. The Legislature this year rejected the idea after many lawmakers said they didn’t trust federal promises to maintain scheduled payments of more than $100 million a year for the program.

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