For Immediate Release: January 30th, 2014
Democrats File Compromise Legislation to Expand Medicaid
Provides affordable care for Alaskans in need and fiscal protections for Alaska
JUNEAU – Democratic legislators, led by Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage) and Representative Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage), filed legislation today to protect the more than 40,000 Alaskans left without comprehensive and affordable medical coverage from the Governor’s recent decision to deny the fully federally funded Medicaid expansion program.
Medicaid expansion was a top priority for the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce. Numerous other leading Alaskan health organizations such as the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association and the Alaska Native Tribal Health consortium supported expansion for its many economic and social benefits to Alaskans.
A report distributed by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium found that Medicaid expansion would provide roughly 40,000 Alaskans with health insurance, create 4,000 new Alaskan jobs, and produce $2.5 billion in increased economic activity. The federal government agreed to fully fund Medicaid expansion for three years, after which federal funding would never fall below 90%.
“The Governor failed to make the common sense decision when it came to Medicaid expansion. He denied tens of thousands of Alaskans health insurance and cost the state over a billion in economic activity,” said Representative Josephson.
Legislation filed in the House and Senate would conditionally accept Medicaid expansion. Should Congress fail to meet its 90% commitment to future costs, Alaska would opt-out of the program. Representative Josephson’s version of the bill was co-sponsored by Representatives Tarr, Gara, Gruenberg, Kreiss-Tomkins and Drummond in the House. Senator Wielechowski served as prime sponsor in the Senate and was joined by Senators French, Ellis, and Gardner.
In early January, Senator Wielechowski released a report from the nonpartisan Legislative Research Services detailing a variety of negative impacts to Alaskans from the Governor’s decision not to expand Medicaid, including poorer health and needless suffering, higher private insurance premiums for Alaskans, and financial strain on health care facilities throughout the state. The report also said Medicaid expansion could saves “scores” of lives in Alaska, if even half the reduction in mortality seen in others states were to occur in Alaska.
“This bill charts a compromise course. It provides affordable medical care for 40,000 working Alaskans if and only if Congress keeps its promise to pay 90% of the cost,” stated Senator Wielechowski. “It’s fiscally responsible and morally the right thing to do.”
For more information contact Senator Wielechowski at (907) 465-2435 or Representative Josephson at (907) 465-4939.