NEWS: Legislative Council Must Drop Medicaid Expansion Lawsuit to Save Money and Secure Better Health Outcomes for Thousands of Alaskans

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The Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition and Alaska Senate Democrats Send Letter to Majority Leadership

September 3, 2015

ANCHORAGE – Today, the members of the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition (AIDC) and the Alaska Senate Democrats sent a letter to the majority leadership in the Alaska Legislature asking them to drop the lawsuit intended to stop Medicaid expansion in Alaska.

“Accepting federal funding to expand eligibility for Medicaid reflects the will of a majority of Alaskans and, I believe, a majority of lawmakers in the Alaska House and Senate,” said AIDC Leader Rep Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage).  “Despite out best efforts, majority leadership refused to allow a vote on expansion and circumvented every effort to include expansion in the budget.  They even went so far as to table consideration of Medicaid expansion amendments on the floor of the Alaska Senate and House. Governor Walker followed the law in making the decision to bring healthcare to an additional 40,000 hard-working Alaskans.”

Multiple legal opinions, including from the Legislature’s own attorneys, show Governor Walker’s actions are legal.  Those same opinions noted that the language inserted into the approved FY 2016 budgets limiting the authority of the Governor to accept federal money for Medicaid expansion was unconstitutional and unenforceable.

By dropping the lawsuit the Legislative Council could save the state hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal expenses and allow the unquestioned benefits of Medicaid expansion to go forward unhindered. 

“I can’t imagine the news from their lawyers was good during Wednesday’s executive session,” said Senate Minority Leader Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage).  “The lower court denied Republican leadership’s request to delay Medicaid expansion, and the Supreme Court wouldn’t even take up the question. It seems to me it’s time for this small group of Republican legislators to give up this wasteful and frivolous suit.”

Two recent court rulings confirm the Legislative Council lawsuit lacks legal merit and will not ultimately be successful.  By continuing the lawsuit, the Legislative Council is choosing a misguided interpretation of the law over improving the future health outcomes of an estimated 40,000 Alaskans who meet the new eligibility guidelines for Medicaid.

Medicaid expansion is expected to provide a boost to the Alaska economy by creating an additional 4,000 jobs and generating $1.2 billion in wages and salaries.   The costs of expansion will be fully covered by the federal government this fiscal year.  The federal match will be slowly scaled back to 90 percent in 2020.


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