House Finance Committee Blocks Medicaid Expansion Bill

House Finance Committee Chair Steve Thompson says the committee will not advance the Governor’s Medicaid expansion bill. He made the announcement at the beginning of a scheduled hearing on the bill this afternoon at the Anchorage legislative information office:

“Hearings this week have made it very clear that Medicaid is a bigger problem than we knew; it is a highly complex system facing significant challenges. The legislation the governor has put before us does not address a plan to move forward; only an acceptance of twenty to forty thousand more people into a system that has been acknowledged as broken.”

Download Audio:

The decision makes the passage of Medicaid expansion highly unlikely this special session. As Thompson gaveled out of the hearing, Anchorage Democrat Les Gara attempted to respond before his microphone was silenced.

Gara says he wanted to clarify that Democrats on the Finance Committee were not consulted on the action. He calls the decision an “insane trifecta:”

“We supported the $580 million in state budget savings it would have brought to us in next 6 years. In a time of budget deficits, turning away those savings is insane. We supported the 4,000 jobs it would of created. Turning away 4000 jobs is insane. And keeping health coverage from people who need it is insane.”

Health Commissioner Valerie Davidson says she was very disappointed by the committee’s action. She says all of the concerns Republican lawmakers had with Medicaid expansion were addressed by the administration. And she points out the legislature has had three years to consider the issue:

“So for folks to say now that they just haven’t had enough time to be able to consider the issue the issue and study the issue I think is disingenuous. They certainly have had the time, whether they have had the will is quite another matter.”

In a written statement, Governor Bill Walker said he will continue to work with the legislature to expand Medicaid.