Alaska Supreme Court won't block Medicaid expansion

Thousands of lower-income Alaskans will become eligible for Medicaid after the Alaska Supreme Court on Monday refused to temporarily block the state from expanding the health care program.

The win capped a big day for Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, who earlier flew with President Barack Obama from Washington, D.C., to Anchorage.

Walker announced plans to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid coverage to thousands Alaskans after state legislators tabled his expansion legislation for further review earlier this year. Walker has proposed rolling out the expansion as of Tuesday.

The Legislative Council, acting on behalf of lawmakers, sued to stop expansion.

On Friday, Superior Court Judge Frank Pfiffner denied the request from lawmakers to halt expansion while a lawsuit moves forward. The Alaska Supreme Court on Monday agreed, saying lawyers for the lawmakers failed to show Pfiffner erred when denying the motion for a preliminary injunction.

A spokeswoman for the attorney general's office said expansion will go on as planned Tuesday.

"We are pleased the Alaska Supreme Court agreed that there is no reason to stop the state from moving forward with Medicaid expansion tomorrow. Ultimately, the Legislative Council could not show any real harm from allowing the program to move forward, and the court upheld the well-reasoned decision of Judge Pfiffner," said a statement from the Department of Law.

"Hopefully, this convinces the Legislative Council that resources would be better spent working together towards the common goal of reform, instead of spending money on lawsuits," the statement said.

A message left with lawyers for the Legislative Council was not immediately returned. Their office was closed Monday because of security and its proximity to the global warming conference in downtown Anchorage that featured Obama as the closing speaker.

Walker has said nearly 20,000 working Alaskans will have access to health care under expansion. State-commissioned estimates released earlier this year indicate that nearly 42,000 Alaskans would be eligible for coverage under expanded Medicaid the first year and about 20,000 would enroll.

The council, comprised of House and Senate legislators, voted 10-1 in August to sue Walker over his plans.


08/31/2015 - 5:24pm