Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau
Governor Sean Parnell won’t implement any aspect of the federal health care overhaul in Alaska, citing a Florida judge’s decision calling the law unconstitutional.
Two other federal judges have upheld the law, and one in Virginia upheld all of it except the controversial provision requiring citizens to buy health insurance or face penalties. The issue will almost certainly be resolved by the United States Supreme Court. But Parnell told the Juneau Chamber of Commerce today that the Florida ruling is the law of the land for now, and Alaska is not going to participate in the overhaul.
“Alaska is a party to the Florida case with 26 other states. The judge gave us what we sought,” Parnell said. “That is a declaration that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and the court barred implementation of the federal health care law. It’s pretty much that simple and Alaska is bound by that decision.”
That means he’ll skip a Friday deadline to apply for a million dollar federal grant to set up a state-run health insurance exchange giving individuals and small businesses access to information on insurance plans in Alaska. Parnell is the only governor in the country not to seek the grant, and the federal government is now likely set up an exchange for the state. But the governor says accepting the money would have come with federal strings attached.
“Alaska now swims freer of federal entanglement than these other states. These other states are now trying to figure out what to do with the oppressive constraints of money taken under an unconstitutional regime,” Parnell said.
State Senator Hollis French of Anchorage was one of seven lawmakers who wrote the governor this week urging him to accept the insurance exchange grant. French says the governor is wrong about the Florida ruling being the law of the land, and is harming Alaskans with his refusal to implement any part of the federal health care reform.
“It’s harmful to the 115,000 Alaskans who don’t have health insurance, and it’s harmful to those who do who were going to benefit from the many beneficial reforms that were in the Affordable Care Act,” French added.
Parnell says the state is pursuing other opportunities to improve health care for Alaskans, including an evaluation of health insurance exchanges by the state Division of Insurance. He’s also directed Commissioner of Health and Social Services Bill Streur to streamline enrollment in public assistance programs, and work with healthcare providers to better serve senior citizens and children.
French says the governor should propose legislation implementing his alternatives to the Affordable Care Act, rather than just talking about them.
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