Anchorage law firm intervenes on behalf of state in anti-Medicaid lawsuit

An Anchorage law firm is helping the state fight the Legislative Council’s lawsuit aimed at stopping Medicaid expansion. Ray Brown, an attorney with the Anchorage based law firm Dillon & Findley reached out to Governor Bill Walker’s office late last week. Brown says he was upset when he learned the Legislative Council was paying at least $450,000 to a Washington, D.C.,-based law firm to argue the case.

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“I was greatly offended by it and I talked to my partners and we agreed that given the current budgetary crisis in Alaska, the state could ill afford to hire a private law firm to go up against this national firm. And we agreed to do it pro bono- we’ve litigated against large national law firms on numerous occasions.”

Attorney’s for the Legislative Council filed the lawsuit in Anchorage Superior Court yesterday. They’re asking a judge to stop the state from starting to offer Medicaid benefits to up to 40,000 new Alaskans as planned on September 1st.

The new group of new beneficiaries are mostly childless adults living in poverty. Brown says his law firm feels very strongly that providing health insurance to Alaskans is the right thing to do.

“If you’re going to be a law firm working pro bono it should be for a good cause and I can’t think of any one better than providing Medicaid to those who are in the most need in this state. So we feel very strongly about it and we’re willing to dedicate our efforts in that regard to whatever extent it takes.”

Brown says his firm will have as many as five lawyers working with a team of state attorneys on the case.

The Legislative Council’s lawsuit contends the expansion population is an optional group that cannot be covered unless approved by the Legislature. In court filings, the Council argues the state could face “irreparable fiscal injury” if Medicaid expansion starts next week.

The first court hearing in the case has been scheduled for the afternoon of August 27th.

This story is part of a reporting partnership between APRN, NPR and Kaiser Health News.