Republican Lawmakers Continue to Support Lawsuit Despite Clear Indications Expanded Medicaid is Legal and Saves Alaska Millions
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 28, 2015
ANCHORAGE – Earlier today, the Alaska State Legislature’s Republican-controlled Legislative Council failed to withdraw its ill-advised lawsuit against Governor Bill Walker over his decision to accept federal funds to expand eligibility for the Medicaid program in Alaska. The Legislative Council, which only includes one member of the minority in the House and Senate, met behind closed doors in Anchorage to discuss the Council’s lawsuit. At the conclusion of the meeting, the Council took no action. The result of this inaction is that the lawsuit will continue.
“Flawed reasoning and political games have won out again as the Legislative Council has chosen to continue this wasteful lawsuit that will cost the state nearly half a million dollars, all in an effort to deny healthcare to thousands of our friends and neighbors,” said Representative Sam Kito (D-Juneau), who is the only minority caucus member on the Legislative Council. “Multiple legal opinions outline in great detail that the Governor of Alaska has had, and continues to have, the legal authority to accept federal funding above what is spelled out in the budget. This power has been held and used by multiple governors both Republican and Democrat.”
In August, a Superior Court Judge found that the Medicaid expansion lawsuit lacked enough legal merit to stop implementation and the Alaska Supreme Court agreed by choosing not to hear the matter. The administration of Governor Walker is being represented in the case by an Anchorage law firm working at no cost to the state. However, the Legislative Council has hired two high-priced law firms at a cost of $450,000 to fight Medicaid expansion as the state is facing a $3 billion budget shortfall.
“Once again the Republican-controlled majority is choosing the courtroom and wasteful spending over the healthcare needs of thousands of hard-working Alaskans,” said Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition Leader Representative Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage). “This lawsuit is politics pure and simple. If the majority leadership wanted the Medicaid expansion issue settled they could have put a bill to a vote. They didn’t because it would have passed. That would have been politically disastrous so they decided to fight their political battle in the court using an advocacy law firm from Washington D.C. at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Through Medicaid expansion an estimated 40,000 Alaskans will be eligible for healthcare coverage, many of them for the first time. Medicaid expansion in Alaska took effect on September 1, 2015. 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.
It’s estimated that Medicaid expansion will ultimately create an additional 4,000 jobs and generate $1.2 billion in wages and salaries in Alaska.