On Friday, Gov. Sean Parnell announced that he would not accept federal funds to provide health insurance for poor Alaskans. His announcement was met with much criticism from groups and individuals across the state, many of whom were incredulous that the governor would turn down what was considered free money from the federal government, something that Alaska hasn’t historically been known to do.
More to the point, had Parnell accepted the funds, up to 41,500 more people could have been insured.
It’s unclear how it will play out in the electorate in the long run, but judging from reactions, it doesn’t appear to be the most popular decision that Parnell has made, which, viewed through one lens, could be considered brave.
Some politicians praised Parnell, but most, who went public anyway, did not. Democratic Sen. Mark Begich, for one, appeared not to agree with Parnell’s decision. In a statement, he said that turning away the federal funds will just make health care more expensive for others. The three Republicans who are vying for his seat, however, remained mum.
On Wednesday, both Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and Dan Sullivan responded to the decision.
In emailed statements, both appeared to support the governor’s decision. Treadwell is more unequivocal. “I support Governor Parnell’s decision to not expand Medicaid,” he wrote. “When I am elected I will work with our Governor to bring decision making home and find solutions that work for Alaska.”
As Alaska’s former attorney general, Sullivan wrote one of the first legal challenges to the law on behalf of the state. His response is more thoughtful and more measured but in the end, he agrees with Parnell.
The country’s healthcare system is in “disarray,” Sullivan wrote, “and the federal government’s promise in Obamacare to cover the vast majority of Medicaid expenses is doubtful at best.”
Medicaid, he said, “requires a functioning healthcare market and a federal government with the credibility to deliver on its healthcare promises.”
Both of their responses are printed in full below.
Joe Miller’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment. Miller walks a fine line here. He gets veterans’ health benefits, but his wife and children in the past received coverage through Alaska’s Medicaid program. He did, however, discuss the issue with local talk show host Glen Biegel and said that he supported Parnell.
“More power to him,” Miller said.
The many failures associated with Obamacare have been well documented. I support Governor Parnell’s decision to not expand Medicaid. The federal budget is a mess and Alaska cannot trust Washington DC to fulfill its financial obligations. We seek more cost effective ways to help those who need help. Alaska needs flexibility from the federal government to craft our own health care solutions. When I am elected I will work with our Governor to bring decision making home and find solutions that work for Alaska.
As Alaska’s Attorney General, I spent weeks evaluating the Affordable Care Act, trying to understand all of its complex components and the constitutionality of its provisions.
The work I authored (attached) provided a strong foundation to the legal challenges that led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Obamacare that limited the federal government’s power under the Commerce Clause and its ability to coerce states into accepting certain federal government mandates. President Obama and Senator Mark Begich consistently promised Alaskans: that if they liked their current insurance plan, they could keep it.
For those who actually read the Affordable Care Act, they would have known that this was a promise that could never be kept. The combination of Obamacare’s mandates and healthcare policy requirements is fundamental to the structure of the Act. As these and other interrelated provisions of the Act are failing or are delayed, in a legally dubious manner, the entire structure of Obamacare is in disarray and the federal government’s ability to deliver on healthcare promises and results for Alaska has thoroughly been undermined. This is not surprising. Trying to reorganize close to one-sixth of the U.S. economy is a task for which the federal government is ill suited.
This is the context in which I view Medicaid expansion. Health care access and affordability are extremely important issues to Alaskans and it is important for policy makers to focus on them. So too is the urgent need to revive our national economy and reign in the trillions of dollars of deficits that the Obama Administration has run up in the past five years.
Medicaid costs in Alaska and nationally are skyrocketing. Medicaid expansion requires a functioning healthcare market and a federal government with the credibility to deliver on its healthcare promises. Right now we have neither—the U.S. healthcare market is in disarray and the federal government’s promise in Obamacare to cover the vast majority of Medicaid expenses is doubtful at best.
The issue of access to affordable healthcare for Alaskans remains a very important issue for our citizens. Congress needs to regain the trust of the American people on these issues before we move forward on additional major healthcare programs.
Contact Amanda Coyne at firstname.lastname@example.org