An Alaska health care group is blasting proposed cuts to Medicaid funding in Gov. Mike Dunleavy's budget.

Mike Barnhill, the state Office of Management and Budget's policy director, says there is no proposal to eliminate coverage for any population of Medicaid.

"It's reducing provider rates and finding a new way of providing coverage at a reduced cost to the state," he said Wednesday. "Alaska reimburses providers under the Medicaid program at a higher rate than any other state in the country."

But Becky Hultberg, president and CEO of the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association, said the reductions would also cost the state matching federal funds.

"This budget is outrageous," Hultberg said.

Hultberg says Medicaid covers about 210,000 Alaskans, including nearly 50,000 people who are part of Medicaid expansion. She said Dunleavy's more than $200 million in proposed cuts plus matching federal dollars would amount to $700 million in reduced Medicaid spending. That level of fiscal stress would cause some of the state's hospitals to close, she said, and could also cost 8,000 to 10,000 people their jobs.

"So we're talking about the ability to have access to an emergency department in some communities," Hultberg said. "We're talking about the ability to have access to certain specialty care. We're really talking about things we take for granted in a functioning health care system potentially being at risk."

Dunleavy's deputy chief of staff, Jeremy Price, responded Wednesday night to Hultberg's comments.

"They lobbied the Legislature to bail out Obamacare. The governor wants a balanced budget where Alaskans can keep their money in their pockets," Price said. "It sounds to me like the health care lobby is trying to take money out of the pocket of Alaskans to fund their bottom line."

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