Democrats Introduce Medicaid Expansion Legislation

Democratic state lawmakers are introducing legislation in the House and Senate to expand Medicaid in Alaska. Governor Sean Parnell rejected the expansion, which is part of the Affordable Care Act, in November.

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The law calls for the federal government to pay for 100% of the expansion for the first three years. That match will gradually decrease to 90% by 2020.

Senator Bill Wielechowski, an Anchorage Democrat, says the Governor’s own Medicaid report shows the expansion would be a huge benefit to the state:

“From better health care to Alaskans to new jobs to lower health insurance premiums for businesses, expanding Medicaid makes sense both financially and morally.”

No Republican lawmakers have signed onto the legislation. Wielechowski says he’s hopeful that will change.

Senator Berta Gardner, a Democrat in Anchorage, says she’s going to keep working to win Republican support:

“The folks I’ve talked with are theoretically supportive, but they want to take a wait and see approach, they’re not willing to come out publicly at this point.”

The bill expands Medicaid to childless adults who earn less than about $20,000 a year. The state would participate as long as the Federal government pays at least 90% of the cost.

Representative Lance Pruitt, an Anchorage Republican, says he wasn’t approached by Democrats about the bill, but thinks the legislation is a no-go:

“Are we really going to give something to someone, and we’re going to write legislation that says here you go, and if the feds do something, we’re going to take it back?”

26 states are expanding Medicaid this year and several more are considering it.

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