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CODY, Wyo. — Gov. Matt Mead’s top health care policy adviser will launch a seven-city tour here next week, looking to identify the state’s leading health care issues and ways to resolve them.

Elizabeth Hoy said that while the state is awaiting a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the Patient Accountability and Affordable Care Act, it must also look at future health care needs in Wyoming.

“The governor opposes the Affordable Care Act, and we’ve joined the lawsuit against it, but it doesn’t do us any good if we don’t have an alternative to the challenges of accessing and paying for health care in the state,” Hoy said Wednesday.

“We need to really understand what our consumers are experiencing, as far as their health care concerns and ideas for solutions, as we look to craft our own solutions moving forward.”

Among other things, Hoy said, the state is seeking input on a possible health benefit exchange. Such an exchange would serve as a web-based market where individuals and small businesses could explore their health insurance needs.

Such an exchange could also allow comparison of health care plans, their costs and benefits. Hoy said it would allow consumers to select the plan that fits them best.

“The problem with the Affordable Care Act is that it imposes a top-down solution,” Hoy said. “We really want to craft a bottom-up solution that looks at our consumers, their real concerns and how to address those.”

If the Affordable Care Act survives the Supreme Court ruling expected this June, Hoy said, the state should be prepared to challenge aspects of the plan as it affects Wyoming.

She said the state may be faced with the choice of running a health benefit exchange of its own or allowing the federal government to run one for it.

“We’re developing a health care strategy and policy at this point,” Hoy said. “We understand that there are problems and concerns with the affordability and access to health care.

“The question is, what’s the best way to approach that in our state? Is it a lack of providers? How do we build up our health care infrastructure? Is the issue affordability of insurance? Do we need to take a different approach to regulating the insurance market?”

Hoy will be looking for input from Wyoming residents as she sets out on a seven-city tour that includes Cody, Gillette, Casper, Rock Springs, Jackson, Riverton and Cheyenne.

The results will be reviewed by the Wyoming Health Benefits Exchange Steering Committee. The committee, which has recommended that Mead use an executive order to advance the state’s intention of establishing an exchange, is expected to meet in Casper in March.

“We want citizens to come out and give us their input about health care in Wyoming and any ideas, concerns or comments they have about possible solutions, including concepts of a health benefit exchange,” Hoy said. “If we choose to move forward with an exchange, we can create one that makes sense for our consumers and our state.”

The Cody meeting is set for Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Park County Library.

Contact Martin Kidston at mkidston@billingsgazette.com or 307-527-7250.

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