Source: Huffington Post ⇥
Submitted By: Gary Greenberg
Alaska Governor Expands Medicaid By Skirting GOP Lawmakers
Posted: Jeffrey Young firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON — Alaska would become the latest state to sign on to a major expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act through a plan announced by Gov. Bill Walker on Thursday.
Walker, a Republican-turned-independent elected in 2014 on a platform that included Medicaid expansion, had been courting the Republican-led state legislature on the issue. But after lawmakers failed to advance his proposal in their latest session, he decided to carry out the policy on his own authority, he said during a press conference at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium headquarters in Anchorage. Absent legislative action to halt or alter the plan, the expansion will take effect Sept. 1, the governor said.
Broadening eligibility for the federal-state health care program could give coverage toas many as 42,000 Alaskans, according to the governor’s office. Walker informed the state legislature’s joint budget committee of his intent to accept federal funding for the expansion in a letter Thursday. He said he will meet with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell to discuss Medicaid expansion next week.
“Alaska and Alaskans cannot wait any longer,” Walker said. “This is the final option for me. I’ve tried everything else,” he said of his decision to circumvent lawmakers after months of lobbying them to enact his plan via legislation. “I never give up, and I won’t give up.”
When Congress enacted the Affordable Care Act in 2010, the law called for a nationwide expansion of Medicaid to anyone earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, which is about $15,650 for a single person and $32,250 for a family of four. But in 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that states could opt out of the expansion. Under Walker’s plan,Alaska would join 30 other states and the District of Columbia in voluntarily adopting the policy.
Besides Alaska, two other states have joined the Medicaid expansion this year.Montana’s version of the policy, favored by Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock and enacted by a majority Republican legislature, awaits federal approval. The plan faces obstacles because the state seeks to add requirements for new enrollees, such as the paying of monthly premiums, that aren’t part of traditional Medicaid programs. Indiana officials, led by Republican Gov. Mike Pence, won a federal OK to use the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid financing to expand a state program that uses private health insurance plans and health savings accounts to cover low-income people.[More at original site. Related article follows here. -G]
Takeaways From Alaska’s Medicaid Expansion
WSJ: THINK TANK
Something to keep in mind as the news of Alaska’s Medicaid expansion is digested: One state’s experience is … one state’s experience, because the politics are so different in each state.
Gov. Bill Walker, a Republican turned independent, wrote to the state’s Legislative Budget and Audit Committee on Thursday that he intends to act on his own to expand Medicaid unless Alaska’s legislature approves expansion plans within 45 days. This would bring to four the number of states where governors have moved to expand Medicaid without full legislative approval. The Democratic governors of Kentucky and West Virginia acted unilaterally, and Ohio’s Republican governor,John Kasich, expanded Medicaid with approval from a state board. As the chart above shows, 30 states and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. (Of historical note: About the same number of states had joined Medicaid a year and half after the program was first created.)
[More content at original site. -G]
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