Walker Administration Renews Medicaid Push

A week after the House Finance Committee removed Medicaid expansion language from the budget, Health Commissioner Valerie Davidson is back before legislators advocating for the program.

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Davidson gave a two-hour presentation to the House Health and Social Services committee on Thursday afternoon, walking the lawmakers through the potential savings and costs of expanding Medicaid. Even though the Walker administration no longer has its own vehicle to accept federal funding for expansion, Davidson is optimistic that there may be other ways to advance the policy.

“We are certainly open to other opportunities to get this done, of course,” says Davidson.

Expanding Medicaid to cover Alaskans who make up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level has been a major priority for Gov. Bill Walker. In the first years, the federal government will cover the total costs of expansion, with 90 percent payment after that.

Rep. Paul Seaton, a Homer Republican who chairs the House Health and Social Services committee, says he is friendly to the idea of expansion, but would like to see the policy come as part of a larger Medicaid reform bill.

“We’re looking for a way forward on Medicaid expansion that makes sense for all Alaskans,” says Seaton.

Numerous members of the Legislature’s Republican majority have stated they would like to see the issue of Medicaid expansion handled through a bill instead of the budget, and that they would like to see that bill come from the Walker administration.

A Medicaid expansion bill has previously been filed by a group of Democrats in the minority, but has not been heard. Seaton says the prime sponsor, Andy Josephson of Anchorage, first put in a request for a hearing last Friday. Seaton says there is no hearing currently planned for that bill, but that his committee will continue to hear more on Medicaid expansion from the Walker administration next week.