Bowing to legislators’ requests, Gov. Bill Walker introduced legislation March 17 setting out a broad framework for reform of the state-managed Medicaid program and also expanding the program to provide health coverage to an estimated 40,000 uninsured Alaskans.
Legislators have now signaled they want to see efforts at reforming the Medicaid program before expanding it, a setback for Gov. Bill Walker’s major legislative initiative this year.
Medicaid expansion is taking on a partisan edge in Juneau, to no surprise. Hearings on the plan by Gov. Bill Walker opened Feb. 16 in a House Finance subcommittee. Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Valerie Davidson made the case for expansion, citing improved health care for Alaskans, lower near-term costs to the state budget, and lower costs for many employers if workers have better access to health care.
Increasing Medicaid access to 41,000 more Alaskans will save the state several million dollars per year according to Gov. Bill Walker’s administration. In the first year of expansion, fiscal year 2016, the State of Alaska will save $6.1 million based on figures in a Department of Health and Social Services report.