• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
3m 26s

Parnell rejects Medicaid expansion in Alaska

By KTVA Alaska 1:06 AM November 15, 2013

Decision opts out of billions in federal aid that state report says would have covered 43,000 uninsured Alaskans

ANCHORAGE – Governor Sean Parnell on Friday rejected an expansion of Medicaid in Alaska, forgoing billions of dollars in federal aid through 2020 that would have insured more than 43,000 Alaskans.

Calling the existing Medicaid program “unsustainable,” Parnell pointed to a state-commissioned report by the Lewin Group that looked at the state’s costs through 2020 under two scenarios: one that expanded Medicaid, and one that didn’t.

Both scenarios took into account changes to health laws that will come as part of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

“I believe a costly Medicaid expansion, especially on top of the broken Obamacare system, is a hot mess,” Parnell said.

The expansion of the program would cost the state between $198.2 and $305.7 million through 2020; federal funds would have contributed between $2.1 and $3.7 billion within that same period.

“Baseline” estimates in the report suggest 43,316 Alaskans would be covered by expansion; assuming full enrollment by eligible Alaskans, that number would jump to 56,364.

“All those federal dollars are really enticing. They really are,” Parnell said. “But they’re not free. They’re paid for by debt and printing more money. They’re paid for by our kids and grandkids. And they also come with the price of being more financially dependent on the federal government than we are today.”

“It is not my intention to create an economy here that revolves around federal dependence,” he added.

Not expanding the program, the report found, would cost Alaska about $39.9 million through 2020, insuring an estimated 779 uninsured Alaskans. The report noted that, should the state not expand Medicaid, “about 19,900 individuals will remain uninsured who would have otherwise gained coverage under Medicaid expansion.”

Rather than expand, Parnell said the solution is reform. To that end, he’s creating a task force to examine the state’s current system and bring its costs under control. The Medicaid Reform Advisory Group—to be made up of senators, house representatives, three appointees and a chairman to be named by the governor—will deliver their report within the year.

Several groups, including the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, had supported the expansion. The governor’s announcement left many unhappy.

“This is not a good time to be a low-income, low-wage worker in Alaska,” said Dahna Graham with Anchorage Faith & Action Congregations Together, a faith-based group of 15 congregations in the city that had supported broadening Medicaid in the state.

She and other AFACT members sang and prayed over lit candles outside the Atwood building in downtown Anchorage as the governor made his announcement today. Saying they were “shocked” and “heartbroken” by the governor’s decision, she said it would ultimately hurt those who can’t afford insurance the most.

“They have nowhere to go, no insurance to buy,” Graham said. “They’ll just have to pray they don’t get sick. We’re sure praying for them.”

Graham said she was most upset about the lack of public process on the decision.

“We haven’t been able to have any public meetings on this,” she said. “We’ve had no access to [the state’s report].” The report is dated April 12, but Parnell said during his announcement that he first saw the report two weeks ago.

Also unhappy about the governor’s decision: Alaska’s democratic lawmakers. Senator Bill Wielechowski said he had been trying to obtain a copy of the state’s report for months, to no avail. He said he’s disappointed that Alaskans won’t be able to take advantage of the federal aid.

“Our tax dollars are going back to D.C., and in exchange we would be getting 43,300 Alaskans insured,” he said. “We are now turning those tax dollars over, and letting them be used so people in California, people in New York, people in Kentucky, other states around the country, to insure their residents.”

Wielechowski said he and other state lawmakers plan to push legislation in the upcoming legislative session in Juneau that would ensure Medicaid’s expansion in Alaska, provided the federal government pays its promised 90 percent of the program’s cost.

Latest Stories

  • Lifestyle

    Alaskans stride for solutions at annual Heart and Stroke Walk

    by Eric Ruble on Sep 24, 18:48

    Considered a growing problem by health professionals, heart disease is the number one killer of Americans. Nearly 1,200 Alaskans joined the fight against it at the Anchorage Heart Walk Saturday morning. “We can think about our own families and friends that are potentially suffering from heart disease and cardiovascular disease, which is turning into an […]

  • News

    Charlotte police release video of Keith Lamont Scott shooting

    by CBS/AP on Sep 24, 17:27

    The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department on Saturday released dashcam and bodycam video of the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, as well as photos of the gun and possible marijuana blunt found on Scott when he died. In the dashcam video, Scott can be seen exiting his vehicle before officers start firing. Officers are heard saying “drop the gun, […]

  • Lifestyle

    Mat-Su Borough officials surprised by mountain goat in downtown Palmer

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Sep 24, 17:14

    ANCHORAGE — Matanuska-Susitna Borough Animal Care Officer Nick Uphus arrived in downtown Palmer Friday afternoon to assist police with the unexpected. “I thought it was a loose domestic goat when I got the call. I knew Palmer Police would not put a goat in the back of the squad car,” Uphus said in a Mat-Su […]

  • Lifestyle

    ‘Tangible’ results from Water Innovations for Healthy Arctic Homes conference

    by Davis Hovey / KNOM on Sep 24, 13:29

    On Wednesday, the conference on Water Innovations for Healthy Arctic Homes, or WIHAH, wrapped up in Anchorage. The goal of the conference was to address the challenges of providing safe and affordable access to running water and sanitation. Panelists with different technical backgrounds presented earlier this week. One of the presenters, local Nome resident Megan Alvanna-Stimpfle, says this conference […]

  • News

    East Anchorage home damaged in early morning fire

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Sep 24, 13:04

    A family whose home was damaged during an early morning fire was displaced but did not need help from the American Red Cross, officials say. The fire was reported at 1:43 a.m. at 2436 Havenshire Place, Anchorage Fire Department dispatchers told KTVA. Fifteen units were dispatched and arrived by 1:49 a.m. The fire took nearly […]

  • News

    Sitka group wants plastic bag fee

    by Associated Press on Sep 24, 13:01

    A group is exploring a possible plastic and paper bag fee in Sitka. The Sitka Sentinel reports the first Bags for Change meeting brought in about a dozen people. Supporters say single-use grocery bags harm the environment. A fee could range from 10 to 25 cents on paper and plastic grocery store bags. The group […]

  • News

    Shaktoolik plans to ‘stay and defend’ current location

    by Lauren Frost / KNOM on Sep 24, 12:42

    This August, representatives from Shaktoolik completed a strategic management plan to protect their community from erosion and violent storms. The plan lists nine critical actions, including replacing the health clinic, reinforcing the berm, and building an evacuation center. All of these critical actions are part of the village’s larger goal of remaining at their current […]

  • Crime

    Anchorage chiropractor arrested for child exploitation may have additional victims, police say

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Sep 24, 11:50

    An Anchorage doctor has been arrested on multiple charges related to child exploitation and distribution of child pornography, according to a release from the Anchorage Police Department. Police said it is possible he has additional victims, and some may live outside of Alaska. Online court records show police arrested 31-year-old Jesse Lee Webb on Thursday […]