Parnell decides not to expand Medicaid

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 - 19:00

On Friday, Nov. 15, Gov. Sean Parnell announced he will not seek to expand Medicaid in his fiscal year 2015 budget proposal.

In a press release, Parnell cited the failure of the Affordable Care Act, “the enormous current and future Medicaid costs to Alaska and greater uncertainty about the federal government’s ability to pay its share” as reasons for his decision.

“Obamacare has failed to launch, is failing to deliver on its promises and remains in disarray,” Parnell said. “Expanding one of its largest, most costly parts will undoubtedly negatively impact Alaskans.

“More people are losing their insurance policies and paying higher premiums with higher out-of-pocket costs. Some Obamacare deadlines have been extended, while others have not, unbundling Obamacare’s package of interdependent tradeoffs.

“As a result, health care is becoming less affordable and less accessible as we witness what appears to be the destruction of the private insurance market,” he said.

The press release went on to say the “state remains committed to funding the safety net of health care services already available to people below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The state will also work to better communicate with income-eligible Alaskans about health care services available to them now at no cost.

“Gov. Parnell has been meeting with health care providers from across Alaska, discussing the adequacy of Alaskans’ safety net and the level of uncompensated care providers give to those in need.

“Gov. Parnell noted that Medicaid is already one of Alaska’s biggest and most costly government programs,” according to the release. “At a cost of $1.5 billion per year, the program covers approximately 140,000 Alaskans, which averages to roughly $11,000 per Alaskan covered. By 2020, without Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, Alaska’s current Medicaid program costs are expected to grow from $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion. With the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, Alaska’s Medicaid costs will skyrocket.”

“Effectively, the state’s operating budget would then revolve around the expanded Medicaid program,” Parnell said. “This decision has to be about setting policy that helps the poor, without saddling future generations with the debt and risk.

“Attaching a costly Medicaid expansion to a flagging national health care program is like buying a high-priced ticket on a sinking ship. If Obamacare rights itself in the years ahead, and begins to deliver on its promises of more affordable and accessible health care for all, the state of Alaska can re-evaluate whether to expand Medicaid in this way.”


Begich disagrees with Parnell’s decision

“Gov. Parnell’s announcement (Friday, Nov. 15) means he is denying health insurance to as many as 40,000 Alaskans, which at the start is free to the state and eventually would cost no more than 10 cents on the dollar,” Sen. Mark Begich said in a press release.

“Aside from the obvious health benefits to Alaska families, the state Chamber of Commerce urged the governor to expand the program because it is also the right thing to do for Alaska businesses and the economy. Without the expansion, people who cannot afford insurance will continue to get their health care needs met in hospital emergency rooms across the state — the most expensive way to get health care,” he said.

“Those costs will continue to be passed on to all other Alaskans.”

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