Medicaid expansion program begins accepting applications
It’s a day that’s been months in the making: On Tuesday, Gov. Bill Walker’s Medicaid expansion program began accepting applications.
With the official rollout, more than 20,000 Alaskans who previously did not qualify for Medicaid coverage became eligible.
Officials say the expanded Medicaid program will cater to mostly single adults, ages 19 to 64, who make under $20,000 per year. Married couples making less than $27,000 can also apply.
Enrollment is available online and on a walk-in basis at local public assistance offices throughout the state. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services says those wondering if they are eligible can apply through the state-run site, aries.alaska.gov, or the federal healthcare marketplace, healthcare.gov.
In order to enroll, individuals will need to supply some personal information, such as Social Security number, income, tax returns and household information. If accepted, approval can be immediate and benefits will go into effect right away.
“We definitely are seeing interest,” said Jenny Belanger, with the Alaska Division of Public Assistance. “The office has had some people come in and receive Medicaid benefits from their application. The online application is up and running and we’re receiving those applications as well.”
Walker says the Medicaid rollout came one day after he received word of additional approvals to the Medicaid expansion plan. He says the feds agreed to include funding to cover travel costs associated with treatment.
Still outstanding though is the lawsuit filed by legislators who say the governor’s Medicaid expansion is unlawful. If legislators win that argument, people who get Medicaid through the expansion will go back to being uncovered. Walker says he hopes that doesn’t happen.
“Today is very good and moving forward is important,” he said. “So we can’t ignore the litigation that’s in place. We will deal with that. My preference is it goes away because we have satisfied the concerns of those that brought the litigation.”
Walker says he expects the lawsuit will take a while before making its way through the system. For now, he’s hoping everyone eligible will take advantage of the coverage.
The governor says the expansion will save the state about $6 million a year in health care costs.
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