The federal government picks up 100 percent of the cost through 2016, but after that, the state contribution builds up to 10 percent, giving the legislature a chance to block state funds for the program down the road. Walker, who is just seven months into his term, had made expanding Medicaid a campaign priority. Opposition to Medicaid expansion in Alaska, as in other states, got support from the Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group financed by the billionaire Koch brothers. But the Legislature’s top attorney, in a memo requested by House Minority Leader Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, said such a move was probably unconstitutional.
Political divisions have stalled the expansion of Medicaid coverage in states concentrated in the South and central West. To go around the legislature, Walker is turning to the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, a group of bipartisan lawmakers that has the authority to review requests for Alaska to accept federal money when the legislature isn’t meeting.
Walker’s Medicaid expansion bill was not voted on during the regular and two special sessions. Some legislators said they wanted to see reforms before moving toward expansion. Other Republican-led states that may expand Medicaid include Utah, North Carolina and surprising Louisiana, according to Adam Searing, senior research fellow at Georgetown’s Center for Children and Families. Legal experts, however, question if the language in that budget is constitutional. “With a almost $3 billion budget deficit, it would be foolish for us to pass up that kind of boost to Alaska’s economy”. During the news conference, Gov. Bill Walker, front right, announced he intended to accept federal money to expand Medicaid coverage in the state. The amount reduces to 90 percent by 2020.
Walker – a former Republican who has since become an Independent – has been advocating for Medicaid expansion for over a year.
Broadening eligibility for the federal-state health care program could give coverage to as many as 42,000 Alaskans, according to the governor’s office.
Not everyone is supportive of Medicaid expansion.
-This is a developing story.