In the waning hours of the budget debate, Rep. Steve Harshman—two time-Speaker of the House and current Chairman of Revenue—withdrew his budget amendment about the postpartum benefit extension. HB4 Medicaid twelve month postpartum extension had been sitting "in the drawer" for weeks. The clock was ticking. Time was short. Procedural deadlines were coming. Seasoned legislative watchers know the clock kills more bills than the body. And this budget amendment was probably the last, best hope for the poorest Wyoming moms.
But he decided to gamble.
When Rep. Harshman withdrew the amendment he said, pointedly, that the Majority Floor Leader (that's who controls which bills make it to the floor for debate) told him "in front of the good Speaker and Majority Whip" that HB4 would be heard.
A little later, a reactionary member of a loose knit coalition shouted (it was via email, but we know a shout when we read one), "WE'VE BEEN PLAYED!" He advocated for withdrawing support, for walking away from the bill. As though the super Catholic, pro-life, pro-family, pro-mother, pro-MedEx, former Speaker, high school teacher and football coach would fuck with something as important and lifesaving (and cost effective) as postpartum care. As though the families we're advocating for could afford to have us give up. This legislative session has left us maybe a titch more cynical than when we arrived, but it hasn't stolen our Sisyphean optimism.
We were pissed. And more dedicated than ever. So our team calmly replied: "Eye on the prize, 32+ aye votes."
Because we know what you know which is what Tom Petty always told us:
Most things I worry 'bout / Never happen anyway
Reader, here's the good news (for a change): It didn't happen. We didn't get played.
Instead, HB4 came out of the drawer before Monday's procedural deadline and advanced successfully through three readings to clear the Wyoming House. Final vote: 34-28.
This is *huge* news.
We could give you a thousand reasons why it is huge news. But the only one that matters is that it will help keep new moms healthy and alive.
In case you want to nerd out, here's some maternal health data from Health Affairs on the impacts of the postpartum benefit extension. Plus the Wyoming Kid Count Data right here. And, if you want to keep reading, there have been a flurry of great and extremely informative Wyoming articles and op-eds:
Medicaid postpartum extension bill moves forward before deadline
Ambler: Strong, pioneer women need access to maternal health care
Malone: Hardworking Wyomingites deserve access to health care
Hazelton, Carpio: For the best start, babies need their moms to be healthy
Deur: HB 4 would ensure better health of moms and their babies
We'd like to encourage you to encourage the Senate to pass HB4. We've got downloadable information and talking points right here to help you do that.
So, contact your Senators! Ask them to make sure that HB4 gets a debate on the Senate Floor. Tell them why it matters. Remind them Wyoming's youngest citizens are counting on them. Ask them to vote yes.