Tag Archives: medicaid expansion

Democratic challenger Mallott reacts to Parnell’s State of the State

byron mallottBelow is Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott’s press release reacting to Gov. Sean Parnell’s State of the State on Wednesday. Mallott, like Parnell, wants more jobs, greater diversification, safer communities, and a robust investment climate.

The two areas of disagreement are on education and expanding Medicaid.

Late last year, Parnell rejected federal money to expand Medicaid, a joint federal/state insurance program for poor Alaskans. “Governor Parnell’s refusal to accept the Federal Medicaid Waiver must be reversed so that 40,000 vulnerable Alaskans can receive the health care they urgently require,” Mallott wrote.

In his State of the State, Parnell called for reform of the state’s educational system, including allowing the public to vote on whether or not public money should go to private and educational institutions.

“Public dollars must go to public schools,” Mallott wrote.

Here’s Mallott’s press release in full:

Alaska is a state of great promise and our future as Alaskans can be bright. But we need leadership to match the challenges and opportunities of today. Alaskans are faced right now with a public education funding crisis that demands immediate legislative action. Governor Parnell wants to divert public dollars to private education when every public education dollar must go to making Alaska’s education system the very best. Public dollars must go to public schools.

Alaskans together must address the challenge of a $2 billion budget revenue deficit that is expected to grow in future years. This session of the Alaska Legislature must focus diligently on reshaping spending to meet the urgent needs faced by every Alaskan, their families, and communities. Governor Parnell’s refusal to accept the Federal Medicaid Waiver must be reversed so that 40,000 vulnerable Alaskans can receive the health care they urgently require. Public safety and a justice system that is responsive to the need of every Alaskan must be strengthened. Job creation and economic diversification is crucial. Reducing the cost of energy for electricity, heating and transportation in Alaska must be a priority. A gas pipeline project that meets Alaska’s need for in-state energy, stable long-term export revenue, and jobs for Alaskans must be a priority that all Alaskans can understand and embrace. A stable, durable oil tax that is needed both for vital oil industry investment and robust public revenue must be agreed to by all Alaskans.

Governor Parnell’s agreement with Alaska democratic legislative leaders’ call for funding Alaska’s pension retirement gap is a step in the right direction to meet both responsible budgeting and a constitutional obligation. I urge the Legislature and Governor in these critical times to reach out to all Alaskans so that together in open, transparent, and responsible dialogue and decision making we can make the best choices for Alaska’s future.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Treadwell and Sullivan speak out on Medicaid expansion

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.

Treadwell’s statement:

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.

Sullivan’s statement:

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 amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Reactions from across the state to Parnell’s decision not to expand Medicaid

Following are excerpts of reactions from politicians and others across the state to Gov. Sean Parnell’s decision not to accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid, the joint federal/state program that provides health insurance to the poor. Parnell said that expanding the program would simply be adding to the “hot mess” that is ObamaCare and though it would insure more Alaskans, “it’s not my intention to create an economy based on federal dependence,” he said. In denying the funds, the state will also deny as many as 41,500 low income Alaskans access to insurance, and turn down as much as $2.5 billion in federal dollars, as well as 4,000 new jobs.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott:

Today Governor Parnell made a calculated political decision to reject calls for Medicaid expansion – hurting some 41,000 Alaskans who will remain without affordable, quality health care. Medicaid expansion should never have become a partisan issue. Despite the Governor’s claims, this was a clear and immediate way to help our economy grow, create new jobs, and lower heath care costs for all of us. That’s why I joined with many state leaders and business organizations in urging him to change his stance on Medicaid expansion. It’s disappointing that Parnell continues to stand in the way of what is best for our state and Alaskans.

Rachael Petro, president and CEO of the Alaska Chamber of Commerce:

Our approach to Medicaid expansion was a pragmatic one and it is unfortunate that the Governor decided to reject the concept as a whole without considering our idea of limiting expansion based on actual federal funding. However, the Governor did say that he is committed to addressing the cost of healthcare for all Alaskans, and is willing to work with legislators and groups like ours to find solutions which provide care for Alaskans in need. Ultimately, the Alaska Chamber is committed to supporting solutions which improve Alaskan’s business climate and will continue toward that goal.

Alaska state Sen. John Coghill:

Considering the failure of the Affordable Care Act, the Governor is wise to refuse Medicaid expansion at this time. It’s a matter of dollars and cents – America can’t afford it.  They don’t have the money to pay for this and they’ll take it from future generations.  I applaud the Governor’s decision.

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich:

Governor Parnell’s announcement today means he is denying health insurance to as many as 40,000 Alaskans, which at the start is free to the state and eventually would cost no more than 10 cents on the dollar…Without the expansion, people who cannot afford insurance will continue to get their health care needs met in hospital emergency rooms across the state—the most expensive way to get health care. Those costs will continue to be passed on to all other Alaskans.

Andy Teuber, chairman and president of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium:

We look forward to seeing what other solutions the Governor may offer. But in the meantime, 40,000 Alaskans are left without any kind of health care coverage. They cannot afford to buy it. For most of these people, there is no other source of assistance to get coverage. When someone is sick, they have to choose between getting health care and feeding their family.

Republican Rep. Pete Higgins:

I support the Governor’s decision not to expand Medicaid at this time. We owe it to our children not to put the burden of this on them and our future generations. I look forward to working with the various entities and the Administration as they put together their Advisory Group.

The Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association:

ASHNHA is disappointed in the Governor’s decision today. We remain concerned about the thousands of Alaskans who are too poor to buy health insurance and as a result of this decision will not get coverage. We see Alaskans daily in our hospitals who critically need health care services. We serve them regardless of their insurance status and we will continue to do so.

Zack Fields, press secretary for the Alaska Democrats:

Parnell refused to crack down on insurance companies cancelling coverage for Alaskans, in contrast to other states that protected consumers…Despite touting them on the State’s website, Parnell is now calling for repeal of the (Affordable Care Act) that outlaws insurance abuses like annual limits, gender discrimination, and price gouging based on pre-existing conditions. While insurance companies have cancelled thousands of Alaskans’ health policies, Parnell has taken no action to defend consumers…

Democratic Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins:

You might think Obamacare is the worst thing to happen to the healthcare system since the bubonic plague. You might think (as I do) that the roll-out of healthcare.gov has been so abominable it’s practically seditious. But that’s irrelevant to the question of Medicaid expansion, which would change the lives of tens of thousands of people for the better. Morally: Our status quo healthcare system is not working super well. 45,000 Americans die every year because they can’t afford treatment for preventable disease. This is a simple, morally repugnant statistic… Medicaid expansion insures the uninsured and offers a glimmer of humanity in our rough-and-tumble world.

The Anchorage chapter of the NAACP:

The governor decided to provide favor to the insurance industry by not allowing provisions in the ACA that would dramatically change health insurance coverage in Alaska when it is fully implemented in 2014. These provisions include reforming the individual insurance markets by eliminating pre-existing condition exclusions, guaranteeing coverage and renewability of coverage, establishing Health Benefit Exchanges, an individual mandate, subsidizing health insurance for people between 100 and 400 percent of FPL, and a mandate for large employers to offer health insurance.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Parnell to make announcement on Medicaid expansion

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.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Anchorage NAACP adds name to long list of Medicaid expansion supporters

Faith-based organizations, the Alaska Chamber of Commerce, Alaska Federation of Natives, Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association, Alaska Native Tribal Health Care Consortium, medical practitioners and their professional trade groups have endorsed and encouraged Gov. Sean Parnell to accept federal Medicaid expansion dollars.

This week, the Anchorage chapter of the NAACP joined the list. On Wednesday, the group sent out a press release also urging Parnell to accept federal Medicaid dollars. “Governor Parnell should listen to Alaskans and expand Medicaid,” said Kevin D. McGee, NAACP 1st Vice President and Chairman of the organization’s Political Action Committee.

Alaska’s share of federal Medicaid expansion would cover over 40,000 Alaskans and have an economic impact of $2.49 billion on the state, according to various studies.

“It is a right to have affordable health care not a privilege,” said Wanda V. Laws, President of the Anchorage NAACP.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


What’s Parnell hiding in that secret Medicaid report?

In Sunday’s Anchorage Daily News, Rich Mauer wrote again about the report commissioned by the state on Medicaid expansion that Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration has for months refused to release. Their refusal is based on “deliberative process,” a catchall phrase, apparently, used by the administration to encompass anything that they’re thinking about.

Parnell hasn’t yet decided whether or not he’s going to accept federal money to expand Medicaid, a linchpin of ObamaCare. He claims to be looking out for the state’s best fiscal interest.

It should be noted here that since Parnell took over, the state’s share of the budget has increased by 55 percent and government employment has increased by 3.9 percent. A not unsubstantial part of that increase is due to rising health care costs, for which a large portion of state workers, including state legislators and those in the executive office, pay nothing in monthly premiums.

Like other Republican governors across the country, Parnell’s likely getting pressure from groups opposed to the law, including the anti-tax group, the Club For Growth, which heavily supported him during his 2008 run against Rep. Don Young.

However, As Mauer points out, there are other ways of getting information about the effects of Medicaid expansion. Through various sources, this is what is known, according to the ADN:

• 41,500 uninsured Alaska residents, including 15,700 Alaska Natives, would become eligible for Medicaid if the expansion is approved (ANTHC).

• Alaska’s statewide mortality rate would decline significantly — one prevented death per year for each 176 newly covered adults (ANTHC).

• About 3,500 new jobs would be created by 2017 through expansion (ANTHC).

• Between 2014 and 2020, the state would spend $90.7 million on expansion, while receiving $1.1 billion federal funds. Savings in other programs would offset the state contribution by at least $67.3 million. Over the first five years, the offsets would actually be greater than the expenditures on Medicaid (ANTHC).

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com 

Alaska State Chamber of Commerce’s legislative priorities

The Alaska State Chamber of Commerce held their annual meeting this week in Fairbanks where they adopted their state and federal legislative priorities for 2014.

Their top three state legislative priorities are:

  • Opposition to the repeal of SB 21 – Alaska’s new oil tax law that will be on the 2014 primary election ballot
  • Medicaid expansion as provided under the Affordable Health Care Act
  • Comprehensive workers’ compensation reform.

At the federal level, the group’s top three priorities are:

  • Supporting oil and gas exploration and development in the Arctic
  • Opposing locking up more federal lands in Alaska
  • Supporting 8(a) preferences in federal contracting for Native corporations.

While the Chamber adopted dozens of other resolutions indicative of their support of specific issues, the organization extensively advocates only on behalf of their top priorities.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Wielechowski wants state Medicaid report released. Says he’ll go to court if necessary.

Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration has for six months declined to make public a report that the state paid for to analyze the effect Medicaid expansion would have on the state. The Department of Health and Social Services paid $80,000 to the Lewin Group, a consulting firm based in Virginia, to write the report. It’s been completed since April, but DHSS won’t release the report until the agency analyzes it.

Alaska state Sen. Bill Wielechowski recently requested the report from DHSS. He was denied. He’s appealing that decision. If he doesn’t receive it, he’ll take it to court, he said.

Wielechowski was told that the report will be made public “once DHSS has completed its analysis and submitted its recommendations to the governor.” Others, including this reporter, have requested the report and have received the same response.

Parnell has not made clear whether or not he would accept funding from the federal government in order to expand Medicaid, a state program that pitches in for health insurance for low income Alaskans and that receives matching federal funds. The report, presumably, will have some impact on Parnell’s decision.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government has offered up to 90 percent of the money to expand the program. The Lewin Group has completed a similar study for New Hampshire. It found that although not accepting the funds would reduce state Medicaid spending, it would reduce the number of uninsured in the state, and increase federal revenues by $1.8 to $2.7 billion in New Hampshire between 2014 and 2020.

A separate report commissioned by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium estimated that if the state accepts expansion, 41,500 uninsured Alaskans will become eligible for Medicaid in 2014 and bring an estimated $1.1 billion in new federal revenue to the state over the next seven years,.

Parnell has said that he’ll make his decision on whether or not to expand the program when he presents his budget at the end of the year.

DHSS did not say when it would release the report. According to the Alaska’s Public Records Act, public records need to be released no later than 10 days after requesting them. Not all records are public, however. Some can remain private because they are considered “deliberative” and contain “opinions, recommendations, or advice about policy.”

Legislative lawyers told Wielechowski that the report is not a deliberative document because it contains no advice about policy.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com