June 8, 2015

CONTACT: Travis Smith (907) 258-3077

Denying Medicaid expansion hurts Alaska

Republican legislator admits that Medicaid expansion is likely in the future, so why hold off and cost Alaska more money?

ANCHORAGE: Last week the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) released a report that detailed the benefits of expanding Medicaid in Alaska.

If Alaska would expand Medicaid this year, then we would see major benefits in 2016. Some 17,000 Alaskans would have health insurance [Table 1]. This influx of newly covered people would lower Alaska’s uncompensated care rate by $20 million [Table 6]. Read the full CEA report here.

This is the last calendar year that states can expand Medicaid and receive 100% reimbursement. Next year the reimbursement percentage drops down to 95%, and by 2020 the matching rate will be at 90%.

A failure to expand this year would cost Alaskans $90 million in federal funding.

Medicaid expansion has had a long and winding journey through the Legislature, and it’s not over yet. Today, the Alaska Dispatch News reports that lawyers from both the executive and legislative branches found the anti Medicaid expansion language contained within the budget is “likely unconstitutional.”

Republican leadership has so far blocked an up or down vote on a stand-alone expansion bill. There is support for expansion in the Republican majority. Back in April, Rep. Lora Reinbold sent an email that claimed expansion would, “likely pass the house floor.”

Sitka Republican Senator Bert Stedman also believes that Medicaid expansion will happen, even calling it “inevitable.”

“Republican leadership’s blockage of an up or down vote on Medicaid expansion stands to cost Alaska $90 million dollars,” said Mike Wenstrup, chair of the Alaska Democratic Party. “Considering our budgetary problems, this is not the time to turn down $90 million dollars.”