Alaskan Democrats Fight for Medicaid Expansion
The Legislative Research Services released a report stating 19.5% of Alaskans did not have health insurance between 2008 and 2012. This report was requested by Senators Johnny Ellis and Bill Wielechowski, both Democrats, in response to Governor Parnell’s administration’s announcement that there wasn’t enough data to determine how many Alaskans are uninsured.
Under the Affordable Care Act the government provides funding to states that wish to expand Medicaid. The funding is used to pay for hospitals, doctors and health care providers. Last year, Governor Parnell decided to not accept the federal expansion.
Alaskan state Senator Bill Wielechowski says the study shows nearly half of low income Alaskans do not have health insurance. He says Alaska would benefit greatly from expanding Medicaid as it would create 4,000 jobs across the state and would insure 43,000 in Alaska.
“The cost is estimated over a six year period of time to be around 60 or 70 million dollars. However, that’s not taking into account the net positive cash flow that will come into the state from doing this. Our estimate is that people who are in the Department of Corrections will be able to expand and that will be another 20 million dollars a year. The state would actually make money by expanding Medicaid.”
US Senator Mark Begich says Alaskans deserve the expansion.
“The fact that we pay the taxes for this coverage and it’s all being sent to Washington DC and we aren’t getting our money back, we’re letting other states take it.”
Begich hopes that Governor Parnell will change his mind during the upcoming campaigning.
“He’s going to hear from a lot of people and hopefully he’ll hear and do what Alaskans want him to do on this. But if he doesn’t, I would hope the legislature when they come back in session maybe they would take some action that would help persuade the governor.”
Begich joined forces and wrote a letter with senators from other states who’s Governors refused the expansion. The letter that he and 19 other Senators signed states “a political difference should not result in almost 6 million Americans falling into a coverage gap because their income is too high for Medicaid coverage, but below the level for a premium tax credit for coverage through a Marketplace plan.”
With the expansion of Medicaid the federal government would pay 100% of the cost for the first three years and then 90% after that. Both Begich and Wielechowski are hopeful that they can work with members of the Alaskan and federal governments to provide health care for more Alaskans.