Alaska Lawmakers To Sue Governor Over Medicaid Expansion

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Sep 02, 2015 11:25 AM
Alaska Lawmakers To Sue Governor Over Medicaid Expansion

The fight over Medicaid expansion in Alaska has reached a point of no return. The lawfare begins, as the Alaskan Supreme Court refused to block Gov. Bill Walker’s executive action to expand the program and bypass the state legislature who refused to do so. In July, Walker, an independent, said he could not wait any longer to convince state lawmakers that this is the right move which would give 20,000* additional Alaskans access to health care.

Now, the state legislature is set to sue the governor. On August 18, the state legislature secured the $450,000 to hire two law firms to bring a lawsuit against the governor based on constitutional grounds (via Alaska Dispatch News):

The Alaska Legislature on Tuesday said it will sue Gov. Bill Walker to block his move last month to expand the public Medicaid health care program without lawmakers’ approval.

Following a private discussion Tuesday morning, a Republican-controlled House-Senate committee voted 10-1 to spend up to $450,000 on two law firms to represent the Legislature in a suit against the governor.

One, Bancroft PLLC, is based in Washington, D.C., and represented more than two dozen states in their U.S. Supreme Court challenge to the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare." The second, Holmes, Weddle & Barcott, is based in Anchorage.

In a news conference after the committee vote, Republican leaders framed their decision to challenge the governor as a constitutional one. They’re seeking an injunction to stop Medicaid expansion from going into effect Sept. 1.

“This is not a policy issue — we’re not discussing whether we should or shouldn’t expand Medicaid,” said Senate President Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage. “This is a question of authority and process and our constitution.”

On August 11, State Sen. Mike Dunleavy sent a memo to Gov. Walker outlining the costs of expanding this government-run health care program and the legal consequences if he goes forward with unilaterally expanding the program. He also requested the governor not go forward with his unilateral action until the legislature “fully vets” the program. Obviously, it was ignored.

On Tuesday, the White House praised Gov. Walker’s decision. As of today, the Healthy Alaska Plan is in full effect. Kristina Ribali of the Foundation for Government Accountability has noted how Medicaid expansion is a budget buster for states. The people who are included in the expansion maybe low-income, but they’re mostly childless, able-bodied adults. One-third of those eligible have criminal records, and nearly half don’t work at all. On average, Medicaid expansion would force states to find two-to-three dollars in cuts from other parts of their respective budgets just to save one dollar in Medicaid spending.

Let’s also not forget the fact that in states like Virginia, almost one in four doctors aren't accepting new Medicaid recipients, making the proposed expansion in the Old Dominion problematic, along with the $1.3 billion price tag to help an additional 400,000 able-bodied adults (mostly young people), who have other options for health care.

Also, those without insurance actually fare better than Medicaid recipients, who have not experienced better care under this government program. No wonder Forbes’ Avik Roy called it a “humanitarian catastrophe.”

*Walker's administration says the figure could be as high as 42,000 people.