Gov. Sean Parnell is having a press conference on Friday morning to make an announcement on accepting federal funds to expand the state’s Medicaid program, which could provide insurance for about 40,000 more low-income Alaskans. As part of the new health care bill, the federal government would pay the expansion’s entire cost for the first three years and 90 percent thereafter.
It’s likely that he will either announce that he won’t accept those, or that he’s still considering it. He did, however, meet on Wednesday with various health care stakeholder groups, all of whom supported expansion. According to sources, he seemed very concerned about the negative effects that expansion, as well as the new health care act, will have on the insurance industry.
Parnell has also continually said that he is worried that the feds will renege on the deal and will eventually leave Alaskans paying the bill. However, the state has at various times cut Medicaid for its residents, and there is nothing that would preclude it from doing so in the future.
Republican governors and Republican led legislatures across the country have wrestled with whether or not to expand their states’ program. In late October, Ohio became the 25th state plus the District of Columbia to expand Medicaid. Nearly a dozen Republican governors have moved to do so. In justifying his decision, Ohio governor, Republican John R. Kasich, said that it makes financial and moral sense. Not accepting the money, he said, “would make a bad situation far worse,” and said that without it, the federal funds and subsequent jobs would just go to other states.
Others, including Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott, have made similar arguments.
According to a study conducted by the Alaska Native Health Consortium, accepting the federal funds would cost the state $23.4 million over the next seven years, but would result in:
- $1.1 billion in new federal revenue for Alaska
- 4,000 new jobs
- $1.2 billion more in wages and salaries paid to Alaskans
- $2.49 billion in increased economic activity throughout the state
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services commissioned another study by a private company which was completed in April. DHSS and Parnell have refused to release the study.
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