As a reminder of what Governor Dennis Daugaard should be doing with his summer, Alaska Governor Bill Walker announced yesterday that he will expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act:
“Today, Alaska becomes the 30th state to accept the benefits of Medicaid expansion,” Walker said. “This is the final option for me — I’ve tried everything else.”
His remarks were followed by a string of state commissioners and hospital executives who praised the governor and outlined their views of expansion’s benefits. Those include what the Walker administration has estimated as 4,000 new jobs, and fewer uninsured patients who can’t pay their bills.
“I’m here to tell you it is the absolute right thing to do,” said Julie Taylor, the CEO of Alaska Regional Hospital.
…Alaska’s Medicaid program currently covers about 120,000 low-income children, pregnant women and people with disabilities. Walker’s move makes newly eligible about 42,000 more Alaskans who make less than $20,300 annually, or couples with combined incomes of less than $27,500, though only 21,000 are expected to enroll in the first year.
Under the Affordable Care Act, states’ costs for Medicaid expansion are fully funded by the federal government through 2016, though that scales back to 90 percent funding by 2020.
Walker said he notified a House-Senate budget committee Thursday of his intent to accept about $150 million in federal money to pay for the expansion [Nathaniel Herz, “Walker Says He’ll Go Ahead with Medicaid Expansion,” Alaska Dispatch News, 2015.07.16].
A flick of the pen, and Uncle Sam drops $150 million into Alaska. Can you say economic stimulus?
Walker is a former Republican turned Independent. Sarah Palin endorsed him in his close 2014 race, so he can’t be that liberal. 45% of the newly eligible Medicaid recipients have jobs, but Walker doesn’t blame those able-bodied workers for the low wages their bosses pay. He recognizes that helping those folks get health coverage is simply the right thing to do:
Thousands of Alaskans and more than 150 organizations, including chambers of commerce, local hospitals, and local governments, have been waiting long enough for Medicaid expansion. It’s time to expand Medicaid so thousands of our friends, coworkers, neighbors, and family members don’t have to make the choice between health care or bankruptcy [Alaska Governor Bill Walker, in Steve Benen, “Despite GOP Opposition, ‘Obamacare’ Continues to Expand,” MSNBC, 2015.07.17].
Alaska is now the 30th state to expand Medicaid under the ACA. Let’s not wait to be 51st, Governor Daugaard. Let’s go for 31st!