AK: Resistance mounting against Medicaid expansion, “Walkercare”

When Governor Bill Walker announced his intention to expand Medicaid unilaterally last month, many legislators were quick to express concerns, but withheld any direct challenges to the move. That tone has changed decidedly in recent days.

With legal arguments developing, those in the legislature’s majority are beginning to vocalize other arguments. Senator Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks), who Co-Chairs the Senate Finance Committee, is building upon his initial opposition to expansion, expressed during the legislative session. Sen. Kelly decries the lack of a plan to increase the number of providers to meet the demand of the estimated 40,000 Alaskans due to become eligible for Medicaid. According to Sen. Kelly:

Expansion will, by design, increase prices because it will increase demand without any corresponding increase of supply, i.e., doctors, nurses, clinics, etc. That means higher prices for everyone except the able-bodied, childless recipients who are the beneficiaries of expansion.

Governor Walker’s move to expand Medicaid is getting national push back as well, including calls for the legislature to block his unilateral action.

But that might be easier said than done since the majority caucuses in the legislature are not yet unified in their opposition to expansion. Senator Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak Island), for example, publicly supports expanding Medicaid:

I believe the governor has made the right decision for Alaska on this issue, and I can tell you the number of constituents who have contacted me in favor of Medicaid expansion far outweighed those opposed. Also, in a poll we conducted earlier this year through the District P email list 77% of the respondents were in favor of expanding the program.

Unless the legislature moves to block or a court challenge is made, Medicaid expansion will move forward on September 1st.

Engage directly with Alaskan healthcare leaders and policy makers on this and many other important issues at the 2015 Alaska State of Reform Conference on October 8th.