• 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

  • News

    New housing development set to break ground near downtown Anchorage

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jan 23, 22:53

    Plans for a new housing project near downtown Anchorage are well underway, according to its developer.  Known as Downtown Edge, the development is part of a larger project designed to improve an area between downtown and the Port of Anchorage. Downtown Edge will consist of 28 townhouses that will boast a view of Mount Susitna, […]

  • News

    Anchorage skier killed by avalanche in Canada

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jan 23, 22:50

    A 32-year-old Anchorage woman died in Canada Saturday morning after she and two friends were caught in an avalanche. The group had been skiing in the back country near Qua Peak in British Columbia when the avalanche occurred, according to a statement from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). “The three were described as experienced […]

  • Troopers: Home invasion turns into homicide investigation

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jan 23, 21:29

    What was initially reported by Alaska State Troopers as a home invasion and shooting has since become a homicide investigation. In an online dispatch published Monday morning, troopers said the incident was reported at 8:47 p.m. on Sunday in Soldotna. One person was injured and taken to Central Peninsula Hospital with life-threatening injuries, the Peninsula […]

  • Caught on camera: Midtown store burglarized for third time

    by Eric Ruble on Jan 23, 20:50

    Employees at the Nutz Gadget store in midtown Anchorage are frustrated. Early Saturday morning, thieves burglarized the business for the third time in less than six months. Thankfully, the store’s security cameras captured the entire incident. In the footage, two people can be seen approaching the store and breaking a hole in the front door’s […]

  • Lifestyle

    Lithium batteries the culprits in Samsung Note 7 debacle, company finds

    by Kris Van Cleave / CBS News on Jan 23, 20:28

    It was overheating Samsung Galaxy Note 7 incidents that prompted a worldwide recall and months-long investigation by 700 Samsung engineers. Over 200,000 devices and more than 30,000 lithium-ion batteries were tested. Samsung found that a design defect — incorrect battery positioning in the Galaxy Note 7’s upper right corner –caused the first wave of problems. […]

  • Politics

    BP signs cooperation agreement with state to advance gas project

    by Liz Raines on Jan 23, 20:15

    Alaska’s plans for a liquefied natural gas pipeline got a bit of a boost Monday. Oil giant BP and the state have inked a new agreement that calls for BP to assist the state in finding financing for its gas project, known as AKLNG. In August, BP, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil announced they were ending their […]

  • News

    Anchorage crews repair hundreds of street signs damaged by drivers

    by Heather Hintze on Jan 23, 19:51

    Drivers having a tough time on snowy roads have been taking a toll on street signs. The municipality’s Paint and Sign Shop reported 971 repairs so far this winter; last winter crews repaired 1802 signs. As the snow piles up around town, the orders at the shop start to stack up too. “There’s your perfect […]

  • Lifestyle

    Heavy snow not a big concern for Anchorage roofs yet, company says

    by Lauren Maxwell on Jan 23, 19:47

    A local roofing company said most Anchorage residents don’t need to start shoveling their roofs yet, or worry too much about the snow load. Jason Dial, with Rain Proof Roofing, said in most circumstances, the company recommends shoveling when snow reaches a height of about 32 inches. He said most people in Anchorage still have […]