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Saturday, March 24 2018 @ 07:42 AM AKDT

Next Steps on Medicaid Expansion Announced

Health and WellnessJuly 16, 2015 ANCHORAGE—Governor Bill Walker sent a letter to the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee today, giving members the required 45-day notice of his intention to accept additional federal and Mental Health Trust Fund Authority money to expand Medicaid in Alaska.

Governors and legislatures in 29 states plus the District of Columbia have already made the decision to accept Medicaid expansion. Ten Republican governors have approved Medicaid expansion. Republican legislatures in five states have approved Medicaid expansion.

Governor Walker first included Medicaid expansion funds in his fiscal year 2016 operating budget, and later submitted his own Medicaid reform and expansion bill after the legislature removed the funding in his budget. Expanding Medicaid would bring $146 million to the state in its first year and provide health care to more than 20,000 working Alaskans.

Governor Walker’s Medicaid expansion bill was not taken to the floor for a vote during the regular legislative and two special sessions. Now, the Governor has provided notice to the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, which has the authority to review requests to accept receipt of non-general fund money when the Legislature is not in session.

“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,” Governor Walker said. “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.”

Medicaid expansion would reduce state spending by $6.6 million in the first year, and save over $100 million in state general funds in the first six years.

“Every day that we fail to act, Alaska loses out on $400,000,” Governor Walker said. “With a nearly $3 billion budget deficit, it would be foolish for us to pass up that kind of boost to Alaska’s economy.”

Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Valerie Davidson echoed the Governor’s sentiments, stressing the broad benefits of Medicaid expansion.

“This is about taking care of Alaskans,” said Commissioner Davidson. “Expanding Medicaid will save lives, improve the economy, save the state money, and serve as a catalyst for reform. The department is ready to make this happen and do what it takes to help Alaskans access health care.”

In response to Governor Walker’s request, the LB&A committee can do one of three things within the next 45 days: recommend that the state accept the federal and Mental Health Trust Fund Authority money as outlined in the Governor’s letter; recommend the state not accept that money; or provide no response. Additionally, during the 45-day period, the legislature could call itself into a special session to address Medicaid expansion.

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