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Alaska Gov.-Elect Pushes for Medicaid Expansion

Posted on December 9, 2012 by admin

A recent study by the Urban Institute reveals that the total 10-year cost of a Medicaid expansion in Alaska would be just $147 million. Additionally, the same report indicates that by refusing the offer for medical care, the state is missing out on $1.5 billion in federal funds and $600 million in hospital reimbursement. Thus, the financial wisdom of expanding Medicaid is evident.

Bill Walker, Governor-elect for the state of Alaska, campaigned on the promise of expanding Medicaid on these merits, and the obvious human benefits associated with additional medical care. Just weeks after his victory, he is already talking about the possibilities of implementing the program, even if conservative officials within Alaska are opposed to the idea.

An augmentation of the Medicaid program in Alaska would result in approximately 40,000 individuals receiving healthcare. These low-income, mostly childless adults would get medical care that is completely paid for by the federal government until 2017. At that point, the state of Alaska would have to pay a portion of the bill that will amount to up to 10 percent by the year 2020. Walker thinks this reason enough to enforce his executive authority as governor and approve of the expansion without legislative support.

This mode of action has been successful before. However, the majority of states that passed expansion employed funds from the state budget to do so. This requires legislative approval.

The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium estimates that administrative costs not covered by the federal government for expansion can be anywhere between $3 million and $10 million per year. These numbers alone will make convincing conservative lawmakers of expansion in Alaska difficult. Though, with the various advantages of expanding Medicaid, it would not be impossible.

The decision to add to Alaska’s Medicaid program would allow the state to spend more on other programs, thus increasing economic activity. Democrat Hollis French of the Alaska Senate believes this will be the key selling point to skeptical conservatives.

If Governor-elect Walker succeeds, with or without legislative support, experts indicate Alaska’s new Medicaid program could be running in less than six months.